The room was filled with people suffering from neurological problems.
A celebrated singer had undergone heart and brain surgery and suffered a debilitating stroke. A teenager had cerebral palsy since she was a baby. A Las Cruces attorney was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis two decades ago. A former gymnast was paralyzed in a bicycle accident.
An Albuquerque farrier suffered intense pain after a horse landed on top of him. A baby was born with a severe chromosomal abnormality. A Corrales police officer lost the use of his legs when he was severely injured in line of duty.
The mood should have been somber. Instead, it was upbeat and full of hope.
The group — including many people from out of state — had gathered to honor doctors Jason and Linda Hao, and view a short film about their acupuncture technique that treats neurological disorders.
It was a full house at the Jean Cocteau Cinema on the Friday before Thanksgiving when invited patients and their families, acupuncture students and friends of the Haos met to view a 15-minute film, Modern Day Miracles — The curious art of neuro-acupuncture.
The film was made by Mark Medoff, a professor at New Mexico State University who won a Tony award for his Broadway play, Children of a Lesser God. In 1986, the play was made into a successful movie, and Medoff’s screenplay was nominated for an Academy Award.
Medoff’s short piece on the Haos’ neuro-acupuncture practice highlights 10 of their patients, most of whom were present at the showing. It explains how the doctors treat various neurological disorders by placing needles in their patients’ scalps.
Their technique is different from traditional acupuncture, in which doctors temporarily place a thin needle into a specific point on the body, usually far away from where the pain lies. In neuro-acupuncture, doctors needle areas of the scalp corresponding to parts of the brain damaged by stroke, trauma or disease.
The technique is only 43 years old, as compared to traditional acupuncture, which dates back more than three millennia. Its successes are becoming more widely recognized by mainstream doctors of acupuncture and by Western medicine.
Both Jason and Linda Hao studied scalp acupuncture from the Chinese doctors who developed it.
Linda Hao has a doctorate in acupuncture from Heilongjiang University in Harbin, northeast China. Jason Hao earned his bachelor’s and master’s degrees in traditional Chinese medicine from the same university, and an MBA from the University of Phoenix.
Jason Hao first arrived in Santa Fe in 1992 to teach at the Southwest Acupuncture College. His wife and their son, David, soon joined him.
Today, they maintain offices in Santa Fe and Albuquerque, drawing patients from across New Mexico and beyond. People have come from as far away as Australia, Denmark and Ireland.
The Haos travel widely, teaching their technique to doctors around the world. They have demonstrated neuro-acupuncture at such famous institutions as Johns Hopkins University and the University of California, Los Angeles.
Jason Hao is out of the office so often that it can take months get an appointment with him.
Friends and patients are helping the Haos start a neuro-acupuncture training program based in New Mexico, with the hope that if the doctors travel less, they will have time to treat more patients.
Stephen Hubert is on the board of the new nonprofit, and he spoke to the audience at the November film screening.
He explained he was a successful trial lawyer in Las Cruces when, in 1992, he was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis. He became weaker and his vision deteriorated. He was prescribed with several cutting-edge drugs during clinical trials and university studies. The drugs caused lesions on his legs and cancer on his chest.
Doctors said Hubert would become blind and disabled. Because he had lost his sense of balance and suffered from chronic fatigue, he was unable to appear in the courtroom, and his law firm dissolved.
Then he heard about Jason Hao and commuted to Santa Fe once a week for treatment. He became stronger, and the health of his optic nerve improved. Today, he is a healthy man, able to see well, and back at work.
He told fellow Las Cruces resident Medoff about his experiences. Medoff’s granddaughter, Hope, was born with trisomy 18, a genetic disorder that affects 1 in 6,000 newborns with heart defects, malformed kidneys, developmental delays and problems eating. Most don’t survive.
As a newborn, Hope was in hospice, unable to sleep, on a feeding tube and hooked up to breathing and heart machines.
The Medoff family brought Hope to Albuquerque to see Linda Hao for treatment. Today, the 19-month-old is sleeping and eating well, off the medical devices and a happy baby.
Because of his granddaughter’s improvement after scalp acupuncture treatment, Medoff agreed to make his short film explaining the technique.
He told the audience about his family’s devotion to the Haos.
Other patients who spoke included farrier Joe Dee Wright. He explained that an accident “changed my whole life in an instant.” He was disabled for three years with severe and incurable pain after a horse landed on his back. “Then an instant with Dr. Linda changed my life again.”
Cassidy Moore, whose appearance gave no clue that she was a cerebral palsy patient who suffered a stroke at birth, came with her family from Texas to thank Jason Hao.
Before he treated her, she was paralyzed on her right side, had limited vision in one eye and was having trouble with her studies at school.
Now she can move and see well, and is making good progress with math.
Country and gospel singer Randy Travis also traveled from Texas for the event. Linda Hao treated him after he suffered a stroke, losing most movement and speech. The doctor says Travis can now walk without a stick, has less pain and was able to sing “Amazing Grace” in the treatment room.
In the front row at the theater was Jim Unger in his motorized wheelchair. A former gymnast, he was paralyzed from the neck down because of spinal injuries sustained in a bicycle accident. Today, with Jason Hao’s help, he can use his arms and lift his legs.
The musician for the event, Ricardo Anglada, was paralyzed on his right side after a stroke. Now after treatment, he can play his guitar again.
Mayor Javier Gonzales spoke at the event. His mother is a patient of the Haos. He told the group that the ties the doctors have to Santa Fe are “more than a doctor-patient relationship. They are a community relationship.”
He and several members of the new nonprofit board envision that a neuro-acupuncture center in New Mexico could be an economic driver for the state.
They hope to raise enough money for Medoff to make a full-length documentary on the Haos. With publicity and seed money for a fundraising campaign, they want to help the Haos start a certification program for neuro-acupuncture doctors.
Medoff’s short film is not available for public viewing yet, but the Haos hope to show it soon at an event in Albuquerque.