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Sep 2009  |  By Belinda Lichty Clarke  |  Comments

Can a didgeridoo heal you? A local doctor pushes integrative medicine

Alison Domecq has found life again, thanks to Leslie Mendoza Temple, M.D., who helped her come to terms with an almost unfathomable combination of diagnoses.

Following the deaths of her husband, both her parents and her dog, 66-year-old Domecq was, as she describes it, “in poor, poor shape.” A 20-year diabetic, she also has endured brain surgery and been diagnosed with sleep apnea and Parkinson’s disease.

“I had trouble breathing as a result of the anesthesia from the brain surgery, and I had major problems walking because I would literally fall over,” Domecq says. “I was in a terrible state of being to the point where I couldn’t even get out of bed.

So, on Jan. 22, on the recommendation of her neurologist, Domecq made an appointment to see Temple, who heads the NorthShore University HealthSystem Integrative Medicine Program. Coincidentally, Domecq had met Temple, who at that time was a Family Medicine resident at Glenbrook Hospital, when Domecq’s husband was sick.

“Even then, I remembered her as being a stand-out resident,” Domecq recalls.

And from the moment they were reacquainted, Domecq says she knew that there was hope, first and foremost because Temple listened intently as Domecq chronicled her painful journey.

Temple recommended acupuncture and massage therapies for Domecq, along with a very unique prescription to help her breathing.

“She suggested I learn to play the didgeridoo,” Domecq says. And, lo and behold, the ancient Australian wind instrument worked wonders.

Today, Domecq’s symptoms are well in control, and she is a parent to 5 rescue dogs.

Domecq describes her current state as a complete turnaround, and stresses that Temple’s treatments are more than just combining Eastern and Western medical techniques.

“I think of it as the integration of me as a person into the therapy," she says. "I have become whole again and I am building a new life, all thanks to Dr. Temple’s compassion and comprehensive knowledge."

“Integrative treatments offer patients a larger tool kit to treat their illnesses, and we offer solutions they might never have considered or don’t know about,” Temple says. She has 14 practitioners on staff at the clinic including acupuncturists, body workers, herbalists, a counselor and two RNs. She also has a new partner, internist Dr. Mina Ryu, who will soon complete the University of Arizona Integrative Medicine Fellowship.

Over time, Temple says she has seen a shift in the medical community from skepticism toward genuine acceptance, including requests from various hospital departments for collaboration such as the Kellogg Cancer Center, Prostate Cancer Center and the Center for Pelvic Health. While she's thrilled, this interest adds to her already full plate.

“I talk a lot to patients about maintaining a healthy balance in life and then realize that I face that same challenge,” she says. “I want to say yes to all of the invitations but then I remember that I need to keep things manageable and ‘walk the talk.’"

Dr. Temple has been the program’s director for three years. After completing her Family Medicine Residency at NorthShore University HealthSystem, she completed a two-year dual fellowship in Academic Faculty Development in Family Medicine while studying at the University of Arizona Program in Integrative Medicine.

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