It was a case that left doctors astounded and a family devastated.

One year ago, 13-year-old Fran Vella suddenly fell seriously and inexplicably ill and died two days later.

Now, her parents, Berta and Kevin, have mustered the strength to set up and launch The Remembering Fran Foundation, a social fund in their daughter’s honour that they hope can help other seriously ill children by providing life-saving medical equipment.

“She was a beautiful, very smart 13-year-old, with plans for a bright future,” her heartbroken mother said.

“I just woke up one morning and thought I would like to do something in Fran’s memory a year from her passing.”

The idea is to support not only children with severe medical needs but also their families, through the guidance of top paediatricians at Mater Dei Hospital.

Consultant paediatric endocrinologist John Torpiano, secretary of the foundation, said the life of “a truly lovely young lady with a promising future was cut short by a fulminant series of events following a sudden, severe illness”.

It was “devastating for the whole medical team trying desperately to keep her alive, so one can only imagine what the impact has been on her loving family”.

The foundation aims to help the families of sick children who may have to travel abroad for a particular treatment.

“It is true other NGOs have similar aims but, over time and with improved medical research, there are more children who may be amenable to therapy than ever before,” he explained. “Certain conditions that may have been deemed incurable in the past may have a chance nowadays.”

While the public health service was “very generous and all-encompassing”, invariably a small number of children with rare conditions may not qualify for all possible assistance.

“Some expenses may be far beyond the personal wealth of individual families.”

Also, a defined protocol might not be in place for some conditions.

Art sale to raise funds

The first funds for the foundation in Fran’s name will be raised through an art sale this weekend, a year on from her death.

Nearly 70 artists donated works to the exhibition, organised by her parents.

Art was her daughter’s life. So it was the first thing she thought of to keep her memory alive.

Some of the 98 works are painted in vibrant colours, specifically with Fran in mind. The selection of artwork, a mix of genres from artists that include several well-known names, will be shown at St Michael School, in Pembroke, where Fran was a student, as of Saturday from 4pm to 10 and Sunday from 10am to 4pm.

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