Stroke-like symptoms first sent Donna May to the hospital.

Along with double vision, she spent time with a team of five doctors who tried to treat her.

But the mysterious illness persisted.

“Nobody had a clue what was wrong with me,” May said.

May said it wasn’t until she was recommended to see a chiropractor that she finally got some answers.

May went to chiropractor and friend Arthur Fierro for what she thought could be nerve damage.

Fierro, who served as the president of the American Clinical Board of Nutrition, a nutrition board certification organization for medical doctors, practices functional medicine, a branch of alternative medicine that asks “why” people are sick.

Hoping to drill down to the root cause of May’s illness, Fierro asked May simple questions about health and listened to her, a hallmark of functional medicine, and prescribed May a natural supplement.

“When I came to him, he listened and he discovered that I was full of metals,” May said.

From the work they did together, Fierro determined that May was suffering from heavy metal poisoning, likely caused by exposure to fertilizers in the air.

It was at this same time May said she became her own health advocate. She overhauled her whole lifestyle in hopes of fighting her illness and earned a certification as a health coach, someone who helps people treat their chronic ailments through lifestyle change.

She also found new ways to help her own body detoxify -- remove compounds that cause inflammation.

Fierro, who’d always supported May, encouraged her to take her certification “off the shelf,” and offered her space in his offices to start a small health coaching practice. May now owns Blue Ridge Natural Healing, a new holistic healing practice.

She started seeing clients who’d come in with issues like weight problems, depression and stress.

May starts by asking questions like, “If I had a magic wand and I could fix anything about your health, what would it be?” and “When was the last time you felt good?”

And the next thing she does is key.

“We listen,” May said. “And we pick up on key things that you don’t even know you told us. I’m not a therapist, but if you need someone to listen to you and it has affected your health … let’s do this.”

She said a big part of her job is showing people that feeling bad is "not normal."

May, who’d thought of opening her own natural healing clinic, came up with a five-year plan to eventually transition Fierro’s offices when he retired.

However, when Fierro was forced to retire in January for health reasons, May was catapulted into the driver’s seat on a faster track than she expected, while dealing with the grief of Fierro’s illness.

“A lot of crying and a lot of praying happened in February and March. Then in April, things started to just come together,” May said.

On June 26, she hosted a formal ribbon-cutting for Blue Ridge Natural Healing.

May offers her health coaching and three unusual treatments.

Enthusiastically demonstrating a reclined massage chair, May said her HydroMassage system offers a customizable and “touchless” massage as pressurized water shoots through a system underneath the seat, relaxing the muscles in the ankles to the back of the head.

May said the company gave her a hefty discount when she told them her business is woman-owned.

Fierro, who deals with body pains as part of his illness, said the HydroMassage is gentle but effective.

“It’s good for somebody who has a lot of pain and doesn’t like to be touched,” Fierro said.

May also offers a relaxing bath for the feet that can also tell clients about their overall health.

The way the water looks after May’s ionic foot soak can indicate numerous health concerns, including excessive yeast.

“That will bring up a conversation,” May said.

May aims to make the space feel like a relaxing escape.

“I have essentially brought the beach to the Rockingham County,” May said.

With a nature mural covering one wall and ocean sounds playing from a speaker, May’s clients may also opt to have a seat in a dry salt chamber, which May said treats respiratory conditions, skin issues and anxiety.

“It works like a toothbrush for your respiratory system,” May said. “It’s just like the dry salty air that you get at the beach.”

Customers can opt for individual treatments and packages of all three. May said it’s even a popular “date night” for couples.

“I wish I could take a picture of the men that come in here, and then what they look like when they leave,” May said.

In addition to the treatments and coaching, May sells a variety of wellness supplements. She carries supplements that Fierro developed in his career, including Bio-Defense, a natural anti-viral.

May, who’s passionate about helping people, said it’s important for her to continue in the spirit of Fierro’s practice.

“A lot of Dr. Fierro’s clients think, ‘There’s no one to help me’ now that he’s retired,” May said. “They need closure and there is someone to help him. He has brought so much in to this Valley and I am determined to never let that die.”

Contact Jillian Lynch at 574-6274 or jlynch@dnronline.com. Follow Jillian on Twitter @lynchjillian_

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