Inventive therapies for young patients
Pablo Cortes with mother Lorena Cortes
It was just a snippet of information on a flyer, but fortunately it caught Lorena Cortes' eye at NorthShore Evanston Hospital's Outpatient Clinic. Cortes and her 9-year-old son Pablo were waiting to see a doctor when she noticed the flyer announcing free Integrative Medicine (IM) care for pediatric patients, afflicted with everything from anxiety to asthma to weight problems.
"I saw that and said to myself: 'That's my son,'" said Cortes of Evanston, who spoke through a translator. She called the phone number, filled out some paperwork, and Pablo joined the program.
Cortes' husband is a maintenance worker whose hours had been cut back, so medical care that their son needs is an expense the four-member family can't afford. The free IM services for pediatric patients are made possible by a grant to NorthShore Foundation from The Oberweiler Foundation.
Today, Pablo is being cared for by licensed IM practitioners David Vavrinchik and Edgar Lim, who care for patients at Park Center in Glenview. IM focuses on the whole person—body, mind and spirit—and combines conventional medical care with safe, evidence-based complementary and alternative therapies, like acupuncture.
During a recent visit, Pablo hopped up on the exam table and lay down, as Vavrinchik placed six very thin acupuncture needles into meridian pathways on his body. The needles trigger healing as they correspond to his ailments: asthma, allergies and anxiety. "It doesn't hurt at all," said Pablo, who has had nearly a dozen treatments in the last several months. NorthShore's IM Program also offers laser acupuncture for children who are queasy about needles.
As if to further prove it's painless, Pablo fell asleep during the acupuncture treatment. "I like it and it relaxes me," he said later. "I hope I can keep coming here because now I breathe better and don't need my two inhalers." The fourth grader, with curious eyes and an impish grin, wants to be a police officer when he grows up.
Acupuncture is thought to reduce pain by stimulating endorphin production (natural pain killers), regulate hormones, boost immune cell production and induce relaxation by reducing sympathetic nerve activity. Pablo also takes Chinese herbs to help boost his immunity and temper his allergies. He's lost six pounds by eating healthier foods, and his mom says he has more energy, is more relaxed and is sleeping better since treatments began.
Vavrinchik said traditional Chinese medicine components include acupuncture, herbs, massage, dietary modification and exercise therapy, which can be used alone or in combination. "I commend Pablo's parents for being very compliant because they have taken our advice and changed the way they eat, move and live. We have to work together because when Pablo leaves here, they take over."
"I would like to thank the people who make this possible," said Lorena Cortes, who added, "I could never pay for this. My son is better and feels good. I am so grateful."
"It's amazing to see how much difference these therapies can make, and it's very satisfying to be able to help children," said James R. Bartell, Executive Director of The Oberweiler Foundation, which made a $100,000 grant to fund the program over a four-year period.
"Children respond to acupuncture and lifestyle changes really well, and there's got to be something more here than just placebo effect," said Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, IM Medical Director. "I've seen success over and over with these therapies in adults, too. I'm so thankful to have this grant reach families that wouldn't normally pursue these treatments due to cost or lack of exposure. Imagine the long-term benefit and savings this family will now enjoy from Pablo's improved breathing, healthier weight and happier outlook on life."
Dr. Leslie Mendoza Temple, IM Medical Director (center) with practitioners Edgar Lim, left, and David Vavrinchik
NorthShore's Integrative Medicine (IM) Program treats dozens of conditions—everything from arthritis to tendonitis. But the most common ailments seen in patients tend to be digestive disorders, chronic pain, headaches, insomnia and allergies.
"We see all ages," said Leslie Mendoza Temple, MD, IM Medical Director with practitioners Edgar Lim, left, and David Vavrinchik. The program uses a holistic approach to wellness to prevent medical problems and to reduce symptoms and the need for medications. "Overall, it gives patients personal control over their health so they have more options for a better outcome," Dr. Mendoza Temple added.