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When Minor Health Symptoms Mean Major Heart and Brain Complications

— March 14, 2023

Sometimes minor symptoms are indicators of a larger health issue.

Everyone deals with exhaustion from time to time. It’s a minor part of life and humans can feel tired for a variety of reasons. Sometimes, those tired feelings cross over into something better explained by the word “exhaustion.” While this issue can most of the time be alleviated by some rest and perhaps a vacation, that’s not always the answer.

As someone who was always busy, it wasn’t unusual for Ann Ramirez Duda to feel worn out. Because there was so much going on in her life, it was easy push minor health concerns to the back burner – at least until she couldn’t. For Duda, she explained away any perceivable issues by thinking they were related to the stress of taking care of her ill father or dealing with the ongoing California fires, and fatigue from a demanding work schedule.

Eventually, during a visit with her doctor, congestive heart failure was diagnosed, and her perspective on her health changed dramatically. Through the use of medication and diet modifications, Duda was able to manage her symptoms for a couple of years. However, in 2020, things suddenly got much worse. The first sign of major problems came when she couldn’t keep food down and she was losing weight rapidly.

When Minor Health Symptoms Mean Major Heart and Brain Complications
Photo by Andrea Piacquadio from Pexels

That lead to testing which revealed further heart trouble in the form of mitral valve regurgitation, a condition that leads to blood flowing the wrong way in the heart. As a result of these compounding problems, she was admitted to the University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Health Center after fighting for her care and convincing doctors that she needed to be placed in one hospital where she could get all the attention needed to face this situation.

It was eventually determined that Duda would require a particularly dramatic form of care – a heart transplant. As if that wasn’t enough of a challenge to face on its own, it was discovered while getting ready for a heart transplant that Duda also had a brain tumor. Suddenly, two of the biggest surgeries an individual can face were on the agenda, and the brain tumor removal was up first. It was a success, followed only two weeks later by the transplant.

The overall outcome for Duda was remarkably positive, all things considered. Due to the brain tumor, she has still not regained vision in her right eye, but she was able to get up and walk the very next day after having her heart replaced. She’s able to exercise regularly and is able to be active with her family in a way that simply wasn’t possible before. Duda’s outcome depended on her persistence, and persistent she was.

The story of Ann Ramirez Duda is an excellent reminder to pay attention to what one’s body is trying to say, and to reach out for professional medical assistance when in doubt. All too often, health complaints are caulked up to being the cause of something minor when there’s really something more serious going on. Getting a second opinion if the initial one doesn’t seem to suffice, and so on and so forth until the issue is tackled properly is key. When it comes to each individual’s health and well-being, “we’re all our own best advocates.”


A woman dismissed her exhaustion as anxiety, asthma, and menopause. She actually needed a heart transplant and brain surgery.

Mitral valve regurgitation

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