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Walter Reed Holds Special Place in World War II Veteran’s Heart


By Ricardo J. Reyes

WRNMMC Command Communications

Navy Chief Petty Officer Anthony Musco, a retired World War II, Korean and Vietnam veteran recently began experiencing shortness of breath and a lack of energy.
These are two “typical symptoms of severe aortic valve stenosis,” according to Navy Cmdr. (Dr.) Robert Gallagher, interventional cardiologist at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center and one of Musco’s physicians.
Aortic stenosis is a narrowing of the aortic valve opening, "a condition that is uniformly fatal without treatment,” explained Gallagher.
"Because of his age of 92 and his other medical history, he would have been a very high-risk candidate for open heart surgery," said Navy Capt. (Dr.) Jared Antevil, chief of Cardiothoracic Surgery at WRNMMC and another of Musco’s physicians. "But because of our trans-catheter aortic valve replacement (TAVR) program, we were able to offer him treatment," Antevil added.
TAVR involves replacing one’s aortic valve by inserting a catheter through their femoral artery, located near the groin, explained Antevil.
“[Musco's] story highlights the tremendous strides we've made in the field of heart surgery,” Antevil said. "He had open heart surgery almost 50 years ago, and now he’s had a more advanced, less invasive procedure in the same hospital."
Going Back in Time
In 1972, Musco, an aviation radioman while in uniform, learned that he needed an emergency coronary artery bypass surgery after a routine physical. The surgery helps people whose coronary arteries have become narrowed or blocked by fatty material called plaque. The bypass allows more blood and oxygen to flow to the heart muscle.
"He would have been one of the earlier people to have had bypass surgery" at the then National Naval Medical Center," Antevil explained. Not only did Musco recover well from that surgery, "but all of his bypass grafts are also still open today, the mark of a great surgeon and a great patient. It is unusual to have a bypass surgery still look perfect almost 50 years later,” Antevil added. Musco stayed active as well as a Little League Baseball umpire.
The recent procedure Musco underwent, TAVR, was invented a little more than 10 years ago, Gallagher explained. “It has become available for people who are not ideal for open heart surgery. They can get this done without an incision, without even going to sleep most of the time, and they spend a couple of days in the hospital, and they are back to it," he added.
For Musco, his TAVR procedure was done on Jan. 19, 2018, and he was discharged on Jan. 21. During his first follow-up at WRB, to which he drove himself to, he seemed to be on the right track to recover and grateful for another shot at life, his physicians explained.
"Doctors, thank you very much," Musco said to his providers. "You have given me a new life," he added.