Injured Veteran Finds Hope with Acupuncture

Dr. Su Campo treats Bob McHenry

By Mike Merino

It was 1969 when U.S. Marine Capt. Bob McHenry was piloting a CH-53 Sea
Stallion helicopter over the war-torn jungles of Vietnam. He and his crew were
returning from another dangerous ammunition support mission when enemy fire
struck one of the heavy-lift transporter’s engines.

The copter’s main rotor blades sheared and the tail boom separated from the
craft as it spun downward. A bright reddish-orange flame outside McHenry’s cockpit
window signaled a crash was inevitable; death was possible.

Everyone miraculously survived, but the immense pain Vietnam veteran McHenry suffered
from the accident has lasted for 49 years.

U.S. Marine Capt. Bob McHenry was shot down in Vietnam and has suffered with chronic pain for 49 years
I`ll never ever forget that day,” McHenry said. “I survived, but because of it, I`ve been to more VA doctors than I care to remember. For years, I`ve been seeking any form of pain relief without getting hooked on drugs.”
In 2015, McHenry researched the world of alternative medicine and discovered the possibilities that came with acupuncture. Unfortunately, there were no doctors to provide this treatment at James A. Haley Veterans Hospital. With the help of his VA primary doctor, he navigated the request through the proper medical channels and was authorized that same year to begin receiving treatment from an approved private provider.

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The opioid abuse epidemic has taken a heavy toll on many of our military veterans.
According to a January 2017 edition of Psychology Today, some 68,000 veterans are addicted to opioid painkillers, largely a result of doctors trying to treat chronic pain. This
has all led to serious addiction-related issues which include hospitalization, homelessness,
prison and even suicide.

One of the problems in finding a solution is that there is no adequate replacement
for prescription painkillers.

Now the Veterans Health Administration is adding acupuncture to their arsenal of innovative, alternative health strategies to help ease the pain of our suffering American heroes and reduce dependence on addictive pharmaceutical drugs.

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The science of acupuncture involves the utilization of very thin needles that are
inserted through the patient’s skin at strategic points of the body with little to no
discomfort.

It`s also a key component of traditional Chinese medicine that is practiced
throughout the world. Besides helping to relieve pain, it is used for a wide
range of other health-related issues.

We began approving acupuncture as one of our medical tools around 2008,”
said Charles Brock, chief of Neurology Services and Associate Dean of Veterans
Affairs at Haley. Brock is a pain medicine specialist, a neurologist and a certified
acupuncturist.

Pain management is not something where there is a medicine or specific procedure
that will automatically cure a patient,” he said. “When we are treating our
veterans with pain issues, we have to treat them with multiple-modality fashions in
order to achieve lasting long-term results. And acupuncture is recognized as one of
those modalities.”

“I`ve been to more
VA doctors than I care
to remember.”

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Tampa`s Su Thi Ho Campo is a licensed acupuncture physician and doctor of
oriental medicine. She has treated McHenry in her South Tampa clinic since he was
approved.

Intensely trained for this expertise in China, Campo, like other licensed practitioners
of the 2,600-year-old practice of Chinese acupuncture, was systematically
brought onto the VA outpatient medical team to assist suffering veterans with issues
such as chronic pain, post traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) and other various
medical problems.

It’s important to note that this modality is not designed to replace other forms
of treatment or therapy, but is meant to offer veterans an alternative to traditional
medicine.

It`s an honor to treat our veterans like Mr. McHenry for the chronic longterm
pain they received while in active military service,” Campo said. “They are so
grateful when they finally get some relief.”

McHenry doesn’t expect acupuncture to completely cure all his pain.

It gives me the physical and mental comfort to perform activities I can’t normally
do,” he said. “Besides, throughout my military career, I’ve been stuck with
needles of all shapes and sizes, and that makes acupuncture a breeze.”

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