What has John Fetterman said about his stroke and recovery?

‘His communication is significantly improved compared to his first visit,’ doctor says

Gustaf Kilander
Washington, DC
Wednesday 09 November 2022 03:42 GMT

Related video: John Fetterman addresses ‘the elephant in the room’ in Pennsylvania Senate debate

The health of Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman has garnered a lot of attention following his stroke earlier this year, with his Republican opponent Mehmet Oz claiming that he’s not fit for the job.

When did it happen?

Mr Fetterman suffered an ischemic stroke on 13 May 2022 and was taken to hospital, according to Politico and the Associated Press.

He was discharged on 22 May after doctors put in place a pacemaker and a defibrillator, because of Mr Fetterman’s cardiomyopathy – an illness that makes it more difficult for the heart to pump the blood that the body needs.

While he was in the hospital, Mr Fetterman won the Democratic primary, garnering 59 per cent of the vote.

He will go up against Dr Oz in the midterms on 8 November.

What caused it?

A clot from atrial fibrillation – irregular heart rhythm – prompted the stroke.

What have his doctors said?

Mr Fetterman’s cardiologist, Dr Ramesh Chandra, said in a statement on 3 June that he first met Mr Fetterman in 2017.

“He was experiencing swelling in his feet and came to get it checked out. That is when I diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation, an irregular heart rhythm, along with a decreased heart pump,” Dr Chandra said. “I had prescribed medications along with improved diet and exercise and asked him to follow up again in the following months.”

“Instead, I did not see him again until yesterday. John did not go to any doctor for five years and did not continue taking his medications,” the cardiologist added.

“John is well-compensated and stable. He now has a pacemaker – defibrillator,” he said. “From what I and John’s doctors in Lancaster have observed, the device is working perfectly and he is doing well.”

“Yesterday, I talked to John about how, while [atrial fibrillation] was the cause of his stroke, he also has a condition called cardiomyopathy, which is why doctors in Lancaster chose to implant the device,” the doctor said in his statement to the press. “The prognosis I can give for John’s heart is this: if he takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises, he’ll be fine. If he does what I’ve told him, and I do believe that he is taking his recovery and his health very seriously this time, he should be able to campaign and serve in the US Senate without a problem.”

Doctor Clifford Chen at UPMC in Duquesne, said in a medical report in mid-October that Mr Fetterman “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” according to the Philadelphia Inquirer.

Dr Chen said Mr Fetterman had normal blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level readings.

“His lung exam was clear, heart rate was regular and his strength was normal in all four extremities without any strength or coordination deficits,” he wrote, adding that Mr Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits”.

“Overall, Lt Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices,” he added.

What are the symptoms?

According to Dr Chen, Mr Fetterman’s symptoms show auditory processing disorder – the ability to understand certain spoken words – but “his communication is significantly improved compared to his first visit, assisted by speech therapy, which he has attended on a regular basis since the stroke”.

During interviews and the debate against Dr Oz, closed captioning was used so that Mr Fetterman could read what was being said in real time.

As The Independent reported at the time, Mr Fetterman sometimes during the debate had delayed responses and missed some words when he spoke.

What has Fetterman said about his stroke and recovery?

At the beginning of the debate against Dr Oz, Mr Fetterman spoke about his stroke back in May and his subsequent issues with auditory processing.

“Let’s also talk about the elephant in the room. I had a stroke. He’s never let me forget that. And I might miss some words during this debate, which two words together, but it knocked me down and then I’m going to keep coming back up,” he said.

Moderators asked him if he was fit to do the job of senator and why he hasn’t been completely open with his medical records.

“I believe if my doctor believes that I’m fit to serve, and that’s what I believe is appropriate,” he said. “And I believe that, again, my doctors, the real doctors, that I believe they all believe that I’m ready to be served.”

“I just always understood that it wasn’t going to be easy,” Mr Fetterman told CNN in an interview broadcast on Tuesday. “I am five months into recovery from that, but I thought it was important that I show up and I did it. And at the end of the day, we did, I think, make some important points.”

He added that he, as well as his doctors, believe that he’s going to “continue to get and feel better and better”.

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