Triathlete. ROHHAD Warrior. Eight-Year-Old.

Imagine being told that your son probably wouldn’t live beyond his twenties when he was only six years old.


But that’s the news the Vella family received and had to live with.

Jake Vella was diagnosed with rapid-onset obesity with hypothalamic dysfunction, hypoventilation, and autonomic dysregulation, or ROHHAD two years ago. Now age eight, he hasn’t let the illness stop him from living a full life.

Jake continues to live as if he didn’t have ROHHAD. He attends school, plays the drums, and leads an active lifestyle. He even competes in triathlons! I’d say that’s more physical activity than your normal 8-year-old is doing.

Jake trains with a local club, and the kids and coaches there have become some of his closest friends. He practices three times a week and has never missed a session.

Despite the fact that ROHHAD causes a slow heartbeat, altered pupil responses, and excessive sweating (all things that make physical activity extremely challenging), Jake has persisted. And the exercise has helped control his illness. Sometimes training regiments have to be altered because of his condition, but he always completes them, making persistent the best word to describe this little boy.

While Jake says the Brownlee brothers are his inspiration, his coaches describe him as the inspiring one.

Unfortunately, any form of sickness can perpetuate his symptoms. The common cold could be detrimental to the boy. But Jake is determined to not let that fear slow him down. He is not dictated by his illness despite the bleak diagnosis. Every day he blesses those around him with inspiring dedication, positivity, and resilience.

Read more about Jake’s story here.

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