Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman is “recovering well from his stroke” and “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office,” according to a medical report released Wednesday by the lieutenant governor’s primary care physician.
The new disclosure from the Senate candidate comes more than five months after a near fatal stroke days before the May Democratic primary forced him off the trail. Even after his return to campaigning, Fetterman’s recovery has hung over his race against Republican candidate Mehmet Oz in what has become one of the most closely watched Senate contests in the country.
The new report, written by Dr. Clifford Chen, comes following an October 14 visit to the doctor by the Democratic nominee. Chen wrote that while Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits,” he “continues to exhibit symptoms of an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty,” something the candidate has routinely acknowledged himself and is the reason he used closed captioning in interviews since his stroke.
“Occasional words he will ‘miss’ which seems like he doesn’t hear the word but it is actually not processed properly,” Chen wrote. “His hearing of sound such as music is not affected. 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.”
For months, Fetterman has faced a number of questions about transparency surrounding his health and recovery – including from Oz’s campaign – which has at times taken a mocking tone to question whether the lieutenant governor was healthy enough to campaign for Senate. Oz has since distanced himself from his own campaign aides who mocked Fetterman’s recovery.
“That’s good news that John Fetterman’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health,” said Rachel Tripp, an Oz campaign spokesperson, who later added that now that he is “apparently healthy,” he can “debate for 90 minutes, start taking live questions from voters and reporters, and do a second debate now too.” The pair are set to debate next week in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania.
Oz has pushed Fetterman, who before Wednesday had only released a letter in June explaining his health and recovery, to be transparent about his recovery, imploring his opponent in recent weeks to release new medical records. Oz released his own medical records in late September.
Fetterman had seemed reluctant to heed Oz’s call, telling the PennLive editorial board earlier this month that he would release new information about his medical condition “if there is anything that changed.”
“The progress that I have made is evident,” Fetterman told the group.
When the candidate returned to the campaign trail over the summer, his speech was halting and, according to people who attended fundraisers he held, at times difficult to follow. But Fetterman’s speech has improved in recent months. Although he continues to drop a few words during interviews and has to rephrase comments, he has started to speak with more confidence and fluidity than he exhibited after he returned to the campaign trail.
“Since my stroke five months ago, one of the best parts of this campaign has been the unbelievable number of Pennsylvanians who have shared their own stories with us about the major health problems they’ve faced and overcome in their lives,” Fetterman said. “It reminds me why I’m fighting to slash health care costs and make it so every Pennsylvanian can spend more time with the people they love. Unfortunately for Dr. Oz, I’m ready to serve and continue to get better every single day.”
Chen said in the report that Fetterman “takes appropriate medications to optimize his heart condition and prevent future strokes,” something the candidate admitted over the summer he had not been doing for years before his stroke. The doctor also said Fetterman “exercises routinely and can walk 4 to 5 miles regularly without difficulty.”