'Serious Mental Health Challenges': Fetterman Suffered Permanent Damage From Charging Ahead With Campaign After Near-Fatal Stroke

Democrat struggles to handle tasks associated with being a senator

Sen. John Fetterman (Getty Images)
February 10, 2023

Sen. John Fetterman (D., Pa.) privately acknowledges he may have suffered permanent damage from his near-fatal stroke last year and struggles with rudimentary tasks expected of a senator, according to a new report.

According to the New York Times, Fetterman faces "serious mental health challenges" stemming from the stroke. He was already struggling with the transition before he was rushed to a Washington, D.C., hospital this week after feeling lightheaded. Fetterman, who has been in office for a month, has been at George Washington University Hospital since Wednesday undergoing tests.

The Times report paints a stark contrast with how the Fetterman camp has publicly discussed his recovery. In his first post-stroke interview in July, Fetterman insisted he was on the path to a full recovery and was "100 percent able to run fully." His campaign released a note from his personal doctor—also a campaign donor—that said Fetterman should have "no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office." Fetterman's wife, Gisele, lashed out at an NBC News reporter who asked Fetterman about his health status, saying the journalist should face "consequences" for the interview.

But Fetterman and his aides now acknowledge that those concerns were well founded and that Fetterman returned too quickly to work. Fetterman privately acknowledges that he may have suffered permanent damage by failing to take the recommended amount of rest during the campaign, according to the Times.

"What you're supposed to do to recover from this is do as little as possible," Fetterman chief of staff Adam Jentleson told the newspaper. He said that Fetterman was instead "forced to do as much as possible—he had to get back to the campaign trail. It's hard to claw that back."

Fetterman's health scare this week has convinced him and staff that he needs to come up with a better plan to take care of his physical and emotional well-being. Before that, people close to him have worried that his level of activity is "detrimental" to his overall health.

Fetterman has struggled with the most rudimentary tasks expected of a senator. The duties that are "taxing" for Fetterman include attending committee hearings and White House events, meeting with constituents, and making appearances back home in Pennsylvania.

His biggest struggle has been in processing sound during conversations. Fetterman told the Times that when his ability to process sound is at its worst, voices sound to him like the teacher in Peanuts, whose voice is unintelligible to Charlie Brown and other students.