July Community Hero Award

Congratulations to Gabriella Farrugia, our July Community Hero!

Despite spending months in hospital, a schoolgirl with a rare condition has shared her story with more than 300 of her classmates to raise awareness of the illness. Gabriella Farrugia, 11, who attends Wheatfields Junior School in St Albans, spoke about her condition, Juvenile Dermatomyositis (JDM) at an assembly last week.

JDM is a rare chronic autoimmune disease and affects three in one million people. It effectively means that the immune system attacks the body, causing severe muscle weakness which, if left untreated, could cause paralysis.

Her parents originally thought she was suffering with growing pains before she was diagnosed with the disease and she now goes to Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) regularly for treatment.

Gabriella insisted that her parents did not attend the awareness assembly as it was something “she needed to do on her own”. She said this week that giving the talk was ‘quite nerve-wracking at first’ but she had really enjoyed letting everyone know about her condition because it is so rare. “I felt really happy that I was raising awareness as well,” she added. Gabriella was aided by a Powerpoint programme she had created but she did not read from it and the words were her own. School deputy head, Gretta Ford, said: “Gabriella captured her audience of 360 pupils and staff during her 20 minute assembly to share her story and raise awareness of her condition, JDM. “Gabriella had independently planned and prepared her assembly which she delivered confidently, engaging those listening.” A fun run also took place to raise money for GOSH where Gabriella’s condition was diagnosed. Children will be tackling 90 laps of the school field at various times throughout the day.