Pennsylvania Democratic Senate nominee John Fetterman on Friday said he should have taken his health “more seriously” leading up to a stroke last month that has left many in his party wondering whether he will be able to sufficiently campaign in a closely watched race.
“Like so many others, and so many men in particular, I avoided going to the doctor, even though I knew I didn’t feel well,” Fetterman said. “As a result, I almost died. I want to encourage others to not make the same mistake.”
He offered, however, an optimistic assessment about his health going forward.
“Doctors have told me I need to continue to rest, eat healthy, exercise, and focus on my recovery, and that’s exactly what I’m doing,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I’m not quite back to 100% yet, but I’m getting closer every day.”
Fetterman acknowledged that the incident last month was not the first time he suffered symptoms of a heart condition, but that he had not followed up with doctors or taken the recommended medication he was prescribed in 2017 for atrial fibrillation — an irregular heart rhythm — and a decreased heart pump.
The statement from Fetterman included a letter from his cardiologist, which revealed he has cardiomyopathy, a condition the American Heart Association describes as “a disease of the heart muscle that makes it harder for the heart to pump blood to the rest of the body.”
Fetterman’s cardiologist, Dr. Ramesh Chandra of Alliance Cardiology, said Fetterman had failed to follow up after an initial visit.
“I had prescribed medications along with improved diet and exercise and asked him to follow up again in the following months,” Chandra wrote. “Instead, I did not seem him again until yesterday, John did not go to any doctor for 5 years and did not continue taking his medications.”
But, Chandra noted, if the Pennsylvania Democrat follows doctors’ orders, he “should be able to campaign and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”
The statement and letter were released just hours before celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz emerged as the Republican who will face Fetterman in November. Rival GOP candidate Dave McCormick, a former hedge fund executive, conceded to Oz in a race that was in the midst of a recount.
Fetterman is facing concerns over an uncertain timetable for returning to the campaign trail. He has appeared publicly only in a recorded video nearly three weeks after he suffered a stroke and surgeons implanted a pacemaker with a defibrillator to regulate his heartbeat.
“From what I and John’s doctors in Lancaster have observed, the device is working perfectly and he is doing well,” Chandra wrote in his letter, adding that Fetterman is due for a follow up appointment in six months.