John Fetterman Is 'Recovering Well' From Stroke, His Doctor Says

“He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” Dr. Clifford Chen wrote in a new medical report.

John Fetterman, the Democratic nominee for a Pennsylvania Senate seat, is “recovering well” from a stroke he suffered in May and is healthy enough for full-time work in the Senate, Fetterman’s primary care physician wrote in a new medical report that the campaign released Wednesday.

The new report is the first official update from a medical professional about Fetterman’s health since the candidate, who is currently lieutenant governor of Pennsylvania, released a letter from his cardiologist in early June. It comes amid pressure on Fetterman, who continues to have difficulty accurately interpreting words he hears, to do more to settle lingering doubts about his physical and cognitive fitness for public office.

“Overall, the Lt. Governor is recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve,” wrote Dr. Clifford Chen of Community Family Practice-UPMC in Duquesne, Pennsylvania.

“Overall, Lt. Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices,” Chen concluded. “He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks during a campaign event at the Steamfitters Technology Center in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, a Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, speaks during a campaign event at the Steamfitters Technology Center in Harmony, Pennsylvania, on Tuesday.
Gene J. Puskar/Associated Press

In the report, Chen said that he examined Fetterman last Friday for a follow-up visit after he began seeing Fetterman as a patient in May.

During the visit, Fetterman had “normal” blood pressure and pulse, “normal” strength in his arms and legs, and delivered a “clear” lung exam. Fetterman exercises “routinely” and is capable of “regularly” walking 4-5 miles without any challenges, according to Chen.

In addition, Fetterman’s speech has “significantly improved” since his first visit with Chen, thanks in part to regular speech therapy sessions, Chen wrote.

“He spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits,” he added.

At the same time, Chen confirmed that Fetterman “continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty.”

“Occasional words he will ‘miss’ which seems like he doesn’t hear the word but it is actually not processed properly,” Chen wrote.

Fetterman suffered a stroke that was nearly fatal mere days before his landslide win in the Democratic Senate primary on May 17. The day of the primary election, Fetterman underwent surgery to have a pacemaker inserted.

In the first doctor’s letter that Fetterman released a few weeks later, Fetterman’s cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra, revealed to the public that Fetterman suffers from a chronic heart condition, atrial fibrillation, which caused the stroke. In the course of treating Fetterman, the physician discovered a second heart condition, cardiomyopathy, which makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.

Fetterman had visited Chandra for treatment in 2017 when his feet were swollen. Chandra diagnosed Fetterman’s atrial fibrillation, the key symptom of which is an irregular heartbeat, at that time.

But in the intervening period, Fetterman failed to follow up with Chandra or take the blood thinners that were prescribed. Fetterman has since vowed to listen to medical instructions and maintains a healthier diet.

Fetterman spent about three months recovering. He marked his return to the campaign trail with a rally in Erie on Aug. 12.

Fetterman has since kept a regular schedule of campaign events and rallies, but he has not made himself available to reporters following his events and provided a limited number of interviews. For in-depth interviews, he relies on closed captioning to ensure that he accurately understands every word that the interviewer is saying.

Fetterman also fought publicly with his Republican opponent, Dr. Mehmet Oz, over the number of televised debates and their timing. Oz expressed a willingness to do five debates and wanted them to begin in early September. Fetterman ultimately agreed to one that is due to take place on Oct. 25.

Oz and his Republican allies have seized on video clips of Fetterman mangling words during his speeches as evidence that he is unfit for office.

But Fetterman has been open about his auditory processing difficulties and attacked Oz, a former cardiac surgeon, for mocking him. (In fact, Oz has largely delegated the task of mocking Fetterman to campaign aides.)

“I hope you didn’t have a doctor in your life making fun of it, laughing at you, telling you that you’re not able to do your job, you’re not fit to serve,” Fetterman said at a late September rally in Philadelphia. “But unfortunately, I have a doctor in my life making fun of me and saying all of those things. But if we don’t do what we have to do and step up, you’re going to have that doctor in your life for the next six years.”

Oz’s campaign called the news in Dr. Chen’s report “good news,” then pivoted to calling on Fetterman to participate in a second debate and to lengthen the currently scheduled debate to 90 minutes.

“That’s good news that John Fetterman’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health,” Rachel Tripp, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign, said in a statement. “The bad news is that John Fetterman still supports releasing convicted murderers out on the streets and has zero explanation for why he didn’t pay his taxes 67 times.”
“And now that he apparently is healthy, he can debate for 90 minutes, start taking live questions from voters and reporters, and do a second debate now too,” Tripp added.

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