Sad Day for Myotonic Dystrophy Community

We were saddened to hear of the Death of Kayla who was brave and choose to be the face of this disease. She warmed everyones heart, now the hearts are a little colder.


Kayla Michele Vittek’s Obituary

July 28, 2005 – April 9, 2019 Resident of Santa Cruz, CA 

Kayla Michele Vittek, a beautiful, bright and deeply cherished 13 year-old girl, died peacefully in her sleep in the early morning hours of Tuesday, April 9, 2019. Kayla lived with her mother, Lisa Michele Harvey-Duren, her step-dad Paul Duren and her ten year-old sister in Santa Cruz.
Kayla embraced those that she trusted with her whole heart. For those special people that she let in, she showed a side of herself that not everyone got to see. She had a great sense of humor, she was gentle, kind, empathetic and she genuinely loved life. Kayla loved showing her affection by planting gentle kisses on her loved ones faces. She also gave the most amazing hugs. She loved to dance and adored music from an early age. She especially loved the music of Eric Hutchinson and wouldn’t go to sleep at night until we played his songs. Kayla has blessed our lives and her spirit will live on forever in our hearts.
Kayla was born at Sutter Memorial Hospital in Sacramento, California in 2005. She began her early intervention and education in Rocklin, CA, and transferred to the Soquel Union School District in Santa Cruz County in Kindergarten in 2011. She attended Soquel Elementary School, followed by almost three years at New Brighton Middle School, where she excelled academically thanks to the devoted care of her academic aides and teachers. Despite physical challenges, speaking problems due to the disease and hypersensitivity to sounds, she made the honor roll at New Brighton every semester and was just two month away from graduation and advancement into high school. Kayla loved to read and especially loved science and humanities. Her unexpected success in all facets of her life was miraculous considering the severity of her disease. She was not expected to survive her first year, nor to ever walk or talk. During her final year at New Brighton, she was invited to participate in the student council.
Despite her difficulties with mobility, Kayla loved sports, beginning at age three with horseback riding (hippotherapy) at Ride-To-Walk, and continuing with baseball and soccer from age 7. Kayla played baseball in the challenger league with the Angels, a team made up of individuals living with disabilities. Kayla’s father Jeff loved playing baseball with Kayla on their visits together. In their first game of this season, the weekend after Kayla passed, the Angels had a moment of silence in memory of Kayla and then played her walk-up music, Brave by Sara Bareilles. Kayla participated in Ride-A-Wave and Day at the Beach over the past 6 years. She participated in Day of Discovery snorkeling program at Monterey Bay Aquarium for the past few years. She was a recipient of Make-a-Wish Foundation gift to travel to Hawaii with her family in 2016. Kayla’s favorite event every year was by far MDA camp for kids living with muscular dystrophy. Kayla attended this camp since the age of 6 and with her very special friend Kali for many years and then this past year with Kali, Zoe and Cambry who all live with DM1.
Kayla faced a life-long struggle with congenital myotonic dystrophy (DM1), the most prevalent form of muscular dystrophy. Under the care of her mother and her medical team at Lucile Packard Children’s Hospital at Stanford, led by the chair of the Neuromuscular Department, Dr. John W. Day, MD, PhD., Kayla flourished. She became known throughout the global community of DM patients and caregivers through her blog, as many newly diagnosed patients would find Kayla’s story of hope and would reach out to us. Because of Kayla’s struggle, her mother Lisa helped to found and became the founding executive director of the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundation (MDF), which funds research into this genetic disorder and provides support to families living with this disease.
Kayla appeared regularly in news stories and on television over the past 13 years and she and her mother were spokespeople and strong advocates for DM. Kayla was named the Youth Ambassador for Easterseals Superior California in 2006 and her story was aired on the Sacramento news. Kayla’s story was updated every year on the Sacramento Muscular Dystrophy Association (MDA) Jerry Lewis Telethon from 2006 to 2008 and she was the 2009 face of myotonic dystrophy on the National MDA Jerry Lewis Telethon where she appeared with her father Jeff and her mother Lisa. In 2014 Kayla and Lisa testified in Washington D.C. in a Congressional hearing in support of the reauthorization of the MD-CARE Act which was eventually granted. Kayla participated in a longitudinal research study of congenital myotonic dystrophy patients every year for the last five consecutive years at the University of Utah. Kayla also participated in research at Stanford University. Kayla was about to begin a clinical trial at Stanford for a new drug that improves executive functioning. These are just a few of her accomplishments in her short life.
Kayla was predeceased by Robert and Patricia Vittek, paternal grandparents; June Hull Ferguson, great aunt; and Stephen Harvey, maternal uncle. She is survived by her other family members, who mourn her loss and cherish her memory: Lisa Harvey-Duren, mother; Jeff Vittek, father; Paul Duren, step-father, and her sister; Jane Hull Harvey and Rev. Pharis Harvey, maternal grandparents, Dr. Kathryn Harvey, maternal aunt, Christopher Harvey and Roxanne Ward Zaghab, maternal uncle and aunt; Mitch Vittek, paternal uncle; Rich and Sue Vittek, paternal uncle and aunt; Daniel Harvey, Noelle Pruett, Maya Pruett, Kathryn Harvey, Brenan Batten, Logan Batten, Andie Lee Batten, maternal cousins; Shelby Vittek, Lindsay Vittek and Sarah Hollenback, paternal cousins.
There will be a Celebration of Life of Kayla Michele Vittek at Aptos United Methodist Church on Saturday, April 27, 2019 at 11:00 a.m.. Please RSVP for the event or the live stream.
In lieu of flowers, please consider making a donation to either the Muscular Dystrophy Association or the Myotonic Dystrophy Foundationand note in the memo: Kayla Vittek memorial fund. 
Please leave messages for Kayla’s family in the comments below.

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Study of Childhood and Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy

Here is a recent study of issues with congenital and childhood myotonic dystrophy. It seems pretty comprehensive and has a lot of good information. The summary is below followed by the link to the full study. The study does not also provide information on the link to autism or autism spectrum disorders that many of the children have. The study does not go into depth on the adult form of the disease that follows as the children age and go through puberty. But a good basic review.

“In neonates and children, DM1 predominantly affects muscle strength, cognition, respiratory, central nervous and gastrointestinal systems. Sleep disorders are often under recognized yet a significant morbidity. No effective disease modifying treatment is currently available and neonates and children with DM1 may experience severe physical and intellectual disability, which may be life limiting in the most severe forms. Management is currently supportive, incorporating regular surveillance and treatment of manifestations. Novel therapies, which target the gene and the pathogenic mechanism of abnormal splicing are emerging. Genetic counseling is critical in this autosomal dominant genetic disease with variable penetrance and potential maternal anticipation,as is assisting with family planning and undertakingcascade testing to instigate health surveillance in affected family members.”

BELOW click on hyperlink for full study in PDF form.

Childhood Myotonic dystrophy 2015

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News from 1966 – Mental Retardation and Myotonic Dystrophy

A recent republished article appeared in Pediatrics. Dr. Calderon described 6 cases of Congential Myotonic Dystrophy that had global delay. He also complied 55 cases 53 or which had global developmental delay. The diagnosis were by muscle biopsy then no DNA tests were available. The information urged using this as a differential diagnosis.

Below is the PDF of the article

Mental Retardation and Myotonic Dystrophy 1966

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Males are worse off in Myotonic Dystrophy

A new study shows that males seem to be worse off on a number of factors when they have myotonic dystrophy. Social economic ($$$$) money issues as well as from a health standpoint they do not do as well as females. The full study can be seen here Gender and Myotonic Dystrophy



Our study revealed the multidimensional influence of gender in DM1. First, maternal inheritance was associated with longer repeat expansions and more severe phenotype, as previously reported [5, 6]. This has been attributed to marked DNA instability in the female germ cell lineage allowing additional triplets insertion during oogenesis [43]. Such instability also results to an anticipation in case of maternal inheritance, a phenomenon corresponding to earlier onset and more severe symptoms observed in successive generations [10]. Surprisingly, and in contrast to the general assumptions, we observed that fathers transmitted up to 9% of neonatalonset (mild or severe) forms and 50% of infantile forms, especially those with lower cognitive impairment. Another unexpected observation was that only a minority of overall DM1 patients(37%) had maternal inheritance, which is most unusual for an autosomal dominant inherited disease. It probably results from increased miscarriage and perinatal lethality observed in female DM1 transmitters.

The second gender difference implied an unequal prevalence of several DM1 signs and symptoms in men and women. These differences could not be accounted for overall quantitative male-to-female disproportion in our study population (considered in all statistical analysis),or for the age and genotype differences between the two groups. Men tended to have more obvious classical DM1 symptoms, combining cognitive impairment, marked myotonia,cardiac and respiratory involvement whereas women had more extra-muscular and lateonset manifestations, less suggestive of DM1, such as cataracts, obesity, dysthyroidism, G Isymptoms and sphincter dysfunction. The most poorly symptomatic patients were women,implicating occasional hidden DM1 transmissions by undiagnosed female mutation carriers.

In practice, the sex-related differential risks of developing specific manifestations may require sex-orientated care management, which should be specifically adapted for men (at higher risk of mechanical ventilation, respiratory failure or cardiac conduction defects,which could provide more frequent hospitalization and increased mortality according PMSI database) as well as for women (at higher risk of thyroidism, obesity, sphincter dysfunction,and cataracts). This gender disproportion suggests that women could be more carefulwith their own health. This is underlined by FDM-S survey showing a similar number ofannual routine visits to the cardiologist and pneumonologist for both genders, despite male have more cardiac and respiratory involvement, which should prompt more regular medical care. Altogether, the results highlight the importance of a greater awareness about preventive medical care in DM1 male individuals.

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Fact sheet on Congential Myotonic Dystrophy English and Turkish

The Muscular Dystrophy Association in Australia is providing information on Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy in English and has recently translated this information into Turkish. Here is a link to both these brochures!

Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy Brochure

Congenital Myotonic Dystrophy Turkish

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