John Fetterman says his stroke leading up to Senate race was ‘preventable’

John Fetterman, Pennsylvania’s Democratic Senate nominee, released on Friday afternoon a clean bill of health in order to soon hit the campaign trail and ultimately perform in the U.S. Senate–dependent on how serious he takes his recovery from a recent stroke due to an previously unreported heart condition.

In a letter, his cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra, said that if the current lieutenant governor takes his medications and improves his diet and exercise, he’d be a fit elected official despite suffering a stroke just four days before his 67-county win in Pennsylvania’s primary elections– a result of neglecting two heart condition diagnoses from 2017.

Pennsylvania voters have quietly questioned their nominee’s fitness in the weeks after the health scare. Fetterman hasn’t been back on the campaign trail since the lead up to the election.

Fetterman responded to the doctors’ letter in a statement, writing he should have “taken his health more seriously,” while also indicating that the stroke he suffered on May 13 was “completely preventable,” based on past assertions of his heart health.

PHOTO: In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and his wife Gisele walk to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP, FILE)
PHOTO: In this Jan. 15, 2019, file photo, Pennsylvania Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman and his wife Gisele walk to Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Wolf’s inauguration at the state Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa. (Matt Rourke/AP, FILE)
“I want to emphasize that this was completely preventable. My cardiologist said that if I had continued taking the blood thinners, I never would have had a stroke. I didn’t do what the doctor told me. But I won’t make that mistake again. Taking care of others is important but you must include yourself in there too,” he said.

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Fetterman’s statement and physician’s response does not address when the Democratic nominee will return to the campaign trail in order to battle Donald Trump-backed Dr. Mehmet Oz as his Republican opponent. On Friday night, nearly three weeks after Pennsylvania’s primary elections, former hedge fund executive David McCormick conceded the GOP race with a razor thin margin of less than 1,000 votes.

Until Friday, the highly competitive race to be the Republican nominee was still entrenched in a recount. McCormick’s concession now places Fetterman in a race against Oz, a cardiothoracic surgeon, following his heart-related medical hurdles.

PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport on May 10, 2022, in Lemont Furnace, Pa. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, FILE)
PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport on May 10, 2022, in Lemont Furnace, Pa. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images, FILE)
“It will take some more time to get back on the campaign trail like I was in the lead-up to the primary. It’s frustrating – all the more so because this is my own fault – but bear with me, I need a little more time. I’m not quite back to 100% yet, but I’m getting closer every day,” Fetterman added.

Fetterman’s physician letter outlines his health journey more clearly amid concerns this campaign wasn’t being transparent about the process– Chandra said that in 2017, Fetterman came in for care because of “swelling in his feet.” The Senate hopeful was then diagnosed with atrial fibrillation or Afib, an irregular heart rhythm, along with a decreased heart pumping.

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After prescribing improved diet and exercise along with follow up doctors’ appointments, Chandra reported that Fetterman “did not go to any doctor for 5 years and did not continue taking his medications,” and did not see him again until yesterday.

Fetterman’s campaign had originally said the pacemaker implanted following his May 13 stroke was helping regulate his atrial fibrillation. Chandra’s letter said that Fetterman also has a condition called cardiomyopathy, “which is why doctors in Lancaster chose to implant the device.”

“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 serious this time, he should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem,” Chandra wrote in the letter.

“I will see John again in 6 months for a follow-up appointment to monitor his progress.”

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