Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (Source: Tom Wolf Flickr.)
Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman — also the Democratic U.S. Senate nominee — who suffered a stroke last month also had a previously undisclosed heart condition that prompted doctors to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator into his heart.
His campaign released a letter from a doctor on Friday afternoon, saying that Fetterman, 52, has cardiomyopathy, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood. The statement was the first public comment made by a doctor for Fetterman since he disclosed the stroke on May 15.
Ramesh R. Chandra, a cardiologist at Alliance Cardiology, said Fetterman should be able to campaign and serve in elected office as long as he takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises.
Chandra said he first treated Fetterman in 2017 and diagnosed him with atrial fibrillation, which caused the stroke. Atrial fibrillation is an irregular heart rhythm. Chandra said he prescribed medications, diet, and exercise and asked Fetterman to follow up in the following months.
But Fetterman did not see a doctor for five years and stopped taking his medications.
“The prognosis I can give for John’s heart is this: If he takes his medications, eats healthy, and exercises, he’ll be fine,” Chandra said. “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 U.S. Senate without a problem.”
Fetterman will see Chandra again in six months.
In a statement, Fetterman said he isn’t proud of his actions, referencing not going to the doctor and failing to take his medications.
“Because ignoring them — and avoiding the doctor because you might not like what they have to tell you — could cost you your life,” he said. “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.”
He added: “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.”
On Thursday, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., and Pennsylvania Democratic Party Chairperson Nancy Patton Mills told reporters that they are not concerned about whether Fetterman’s health will be a concern on the campaign trail.
“I think most families know that people have health challenges all the time, and they need to have some time to recover from that,” Casey said. “And they get back on their feet, and they go back to work. That’s what John Fetterman’s going to do.”
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