Sen. John Fetterman (D) said his near-fatal stroke completely changed how he looks at death.
“People in their middle age talk about their mortality,” Pennsylvania’s junior senator told Men’s Health in an interview published Monday. “I’ve experienced my mortality, so I’m not afraid of it anymore.”
Fetterman explained why his 2022 stroke was much more than a close call, telling the magazine, “I didn’t have a near-death experience, because technically I had died.”
“It wasn’t like seeing lights or whatever,” he explained. “But it was feeling that everything was being bounded up in things, all coming up through, and I was going to go up to a window into the sky.”
While he felt beyond blessed to have survived, Fetterman found himself facing more emotional hurdles during his recovery.
The stroke left the former lieutenant governor with problems processing speech, issues that he couldn’t hide while in the middle of a campaign for the U.S. Senate.
Fetterman went on to win his race against daytime TV doctor Mehmet Oz in November 2022, but before that, harsh public reaction to one of his debate performances proved to be a mental breaking point.
“I knew it was going to be rough...but I believed that people deserved to know this is where I’m at,” he told Men’s Health.
Despite the victory, the senator-elect was already in the midst of an almost paralyzing depression.
“We won by five points. The last time this seat went to Democrats was in the ’60s,” he said. “But even then, it didn’t matter to me. I didn’t have any interest to be a senator after that.”
A month after starting his term as senator, Fetterman checked into the Walter Reed Army Medical Center for treatment. He completed treatment and was discharged about six weeks later.
As the senator continues to heal from his major health event, slowly steadying his communication skills, he said he now sees strength where he used to find shame.
“I think the depression has made me a much more effective and empathetic senator,” he said. “After kind of dying, I’m just grateful for any time, whatever that is.”
Read Fetterman’s full interview with Men’s Health here.