Boy Joins Triathlons To Save His Life; 8-Year-Old's Rare Condition Causes Rapid Weight Gain

By Amanda Moore, Parent Herald April 07, 04:00 am

An 8-year-old boy is preparing to join triathlons that what will likely save his life. Jake Vella suffers from a rare condition that causes rapid weight gain. He hopes his participation in the triathlons will help slow down the process.

Vella, who is from Malta, has rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation and autonomic dysregulation (ROHHAD). Only 100 people around the world have this disorder, as per Men's Health.

The weight gain will continue no matter how much a person with ROHHAD watches his diet or does physical activities. This is because a hormonal imbalance and endocrine system abnormalities cause ROHHAD, as per the National Organization for Rare Diseases.

Vella's parents, however, support the boy's decision to join demanding, strenuous and physically draining triathlons, where he's supposed to compete in multiple physical activities. The goal is not to win first place but to make his life normal.

"Triathlons help Jake to keep fit and active," mom Maruska said, as per Metro. "It's good for his health and also gives him a chance to socialize with other kids."

Vella's training takes place three times a week under Matt Azzopardi of the Malta Youth Triathlon Association. "He is extremely positive and motivated and easily the most dedicated," Azzopardi said.

The Vella family learned of their son's condition in 2015. Doctors knew of no one else in the Mediterranean island who suffered from the disorder, as per ABC News.

The health risk is high for people with ROHHAD as aside from diseases linked to obesity, they could likely develop tumors. In fact, Jake has one tumor on his back. Doctors are not sure of his life expectancy as most people with ROHHAD do not live longer than in their '20s, as per Daily Mail.

The family is taking matters day by day and they hope the 8-year-old's story will raise awareness for ROHHAD. There is no known cure for the disorder.

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