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Traditional healer aims to bridge divide in patient care

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    Kahuna Lapa‘au (Master Healer) Ikaika Dombrigues poses for a portrait with native plants in Hilo, Hawaii. Dombrigues will offer his expertise to Big Isle residents seeking traditional Hawaiian health care services for the mind, body and spirit in a series of upcoming workshops.

HILO >> From the time he was a boy, Kahuna Lapaau (Master Healer) Ikaika Dombrigues knew that he would spend his life serving the people of Hawaii.

“My kupuna said I was chosen from a young age. From there, going through life was like a destiny,” he said. “Not like I went out and advertised or solicited myself. Word from them is, all you have to do is sit there and they (the people) will find you. . It is God’s work. Everything comes from a spiritual point of view. If he selects you to be the one to do the work, you just have to be ready for it.”

Everything he does comes from a place of deep faith, he said, and his goals are simple, yet epic in scope.

“I want to heal our people, I want to heal Hawaii. And the world,” he said.

Dombrigues, a resident of the Pahoa area, serves as Poo Kela, or mayor, of the kupuna council for Hui Malama Ola Na Hui Malama Ola Na Oiwi, Hawaii Island’s branch of the Hawaiian Health Care System. As such, he helps to refer clients to traditional healers, and offers his own expertise to Big Island residents seeking traditional Hawaiian health care services for the mind, body and spirit, the Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported.

He is unequivocal in his discussion of Hawaiian health traditions as they relate to the modern world: “We are not ‘alternative medicine.’ We’ve been doing this for hundreds of years. Western medicine is the alternative medicine.”

However, he said, most traditional healers are willing to work in conjunction with Western physicians.

Because of insurance and legal concerns, traditional healing services are provided purely on an informational basis, leaving treatment up to individuals, explained Michelle Hiraishi, executive director at Hui Malama.

“When Uncle Ikaika does one-to-one services, it is educational services, it is not treatment,” she said. “Traditional healers cannot be certified, and if they cannot be certified, malpractice insurance cannot cover them, and if malpractice insurance can’t cover them, then no insurance is going to cover them.

“So always, Uncle Ikaika will say, ‘In the past, Hawaiians used this plant for this type of thing. Now you do with it what you want.’ . He will always tell, ‘Go to your doctor, too. Let it be complementary.'”

Dombrigues said he has butted heads with doctors at times, but he believes the two philosophies can work together to make people feel better.

“Why can’t we bridge?” he asked. “The doctors, their job is to monitor the patient. If the patient wants to use herbs, between Western medicines, he’ll use the herbs. Then, he goes back to the doctor, and the doctor’s job, because they have all the technology, all the facilities, the machines, to say ‘Oh, by using these herbs, you’re getting better.’ Then they come back to me and they say, ‘Whatever you’re using is helping. Stay on it.'”

As for his own efficacy as a healer, Dombrigues said that he has a gift bestowed upon him by his ancestor, the god Lono, which allows him to counsel and heal people. But, that gift can only help if a patient has faith.

“I would say 95 or 90 percent (of illnesses are) spiritual,” he said. “If (treatment isn’t) working, it’s because you’re not believing. You do not have faith. Herbs can heal you. Herbs can kill you. In our tradition in healing, once you have doubt, it will never work. You have to be willing and faithful that the herbs is going to help. If you have any doubt in any way, it ain’t going to work at all. . Faith is the core of the healing process.”

Unfortunately, he said, modern Hawaii residents have largely turned away from traditional Hawaiian methods and ways of living, which has made our culture, bodies, spirits and minds sick. In an effort to spread the word about traditional methods, Dombrigues will hold five free workshops around the island to give people an overview of the subject.

In the workshops, he will touch upon the four major areas of traditional healing, including Hooponopono, or problem resolving; Laau Lapaau, or healing with native Hawaiian herbs; Lomi Lomi Ha Ha, or spiritual massage; and Laau Kahea, or spiritual healing.

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