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Life changing experience for Sacramento ND

Sacramento, Calif. – Last November, I was really looking forward to a trip to the 49th state, and having a wonderful opportunity to visit with my sister in her terrain of Alaska. She is battling Stage 3C ovarian cancer. But, the journey was in jeopardy, as I contracted COVID, which produced a cough that was almost 24/7 for weeks. Fearing pneumonia, and the very real possibility of having to cancel my trip if I continued to cough, I made my way to Sutter Urgent Care. It was critically important that I not be sick while I was in Alaska, as my sister was receiving a new experimental treatment for her 18-year battle with cancer, and sick visitors were unacceptable.

My doctor at urgent care was amazing! On his cardio and lung exam, within less than a second of applying the stethoscope, he was able to diagnose a heart murmur. Apparently, the murmur was quite obvious. While I acted surprised, I really was not. The truth is that, for the last two years or so, when I climbed just one flight of stairs, I would experience shortness of breath. My wife would also notice that I had shortness of breath at the top of the stairs. She would ask me about it, and I would say, “no worries, I’m fine.” I probably couldn’t imagine having anything wrong with my heart after walking nearly 1,400 miles over those same 2 years, from Myrtle Beach, SC to Milwaukee, WI, which included walking over the Appalachian Mountain range. I was, however, in denial.

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Doctors orders

The great doctor ordered an X-Ray, and later in the day, he left a message that I had pneumonia, and prescribed an antibiotic, and, he also ordered an Echo for my murmur. The antibiotic prescribed worked perfectly. The day before I left for Alaska, I was cough-free, full of energy, excitement and gratitude. I couldn’t have been more impressed with the doctor. As a Naturopathic Doctor, it felt good to have a great experience with an MD. I really feel he saved my life!

The bottom line is that the Echo revealed Mitral Valve Prolapse, with severe mitral regurgitation, and an enlarged left atrium. I saw the cardiologist, and, as I requested, he leveled with me. He told me, in very blunt terms, that I would need to get a valve replacement, which means open heart surgery, or I would eventually go into congestive heart failure.


The cardiologist ordered an angiogram. I stayed in the hospital about 4-6 hours after the procedure. The procedure went very smoothly! They suggested a week for a full recovery from the angiogram. The Angiogram was necessary to determine the best way to proceed with my surgery. The cardiologist said he would like for me to have valve surgery ASAP, so as to not interfere with the walk, as he said, “I know that you are a man with a mission.”

The mission the cardiologist was referring to is my 2022-2026 walk across the USA, for health equity. I believe I will be able to walk the third-fifth of the route across USA, from Milwaukee to Fargo, ND, as planned, unless something very unforeseen develops. The cardiologist and surgeon believe I will be ready to go for my August 19-September 19 walk.

Walking an average 9+ miles per day, 365 days a year, and other than shortness of breath (SOB) going up stairs, mitral regurgitation has not affected me much! But, eventually, if I didn’t get the surgery, my heart will no longer be able to compensate, and I will likely end up with congestive heart failure. When I talk to my patients about diabetes, or other serious illnesses, I tell them the story of the guy who goes to the top of the Empire State Building to jump off the building to prove that gravity is a myth. On the way down, he says, “so far so good,” of course, until he hits the ground.

A few things I’ve reflected on through all of this:

  • I am extremely grateful for learning the truth of my leaky mitral valve. I greatly appreciate the MD that bothered to do a physical exam which led to the Echo! “Know the TRUTH and the truth will set you free.”
  • I’m more determined than ever to continue the walk for health equity.
  • Regarding my own health, for future reference, I will seek help sooner, and be more proactive with doing the conventional care that could be helpful. My hope is that you also take good care of yourself! Please don’t ignore signs and symptoms. Please get regular checkups. I had a patient who came in only because of menopause, and needed bio-identical hormones, but decided to do an extensive blood test through our office. At the appointment, I had to inform her that she had diabetes, and it was out of control at a 11.4 A1C (under 5.6 is healthy) and a fasting glucose of 340+ (under 100 is healthy). She had no idea that she had diabetes because she hadn’t had a blood test in 10 years and no symptoms of diabetes.
  • 12 days and counting until open heart surgery and valve replacement. I will remain forever grateful.
Dr Dennis Godby

Explore additional topics from Dr. Godby, ND, MA at Natural Wellness.

As a naturopathic doctor for the last 18 years, I have witnessed the power of a preventative lifestyle and naturopathic medicine to transform the health and lives of thousands of patients.

Sacramento Naturopathic
2530 J Street, Suite 100
Sacramento, CA 95816
Phone: (916) 446-2591

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