Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman (D), a candidate for U.S. Senate, released a statement Friday indicating serious unaddressed health problems preceded the stroke he suffered in the days leading up to the May 17 primary.

Fetterman called the heart clot which caused the stroke “preventable,” as he recalled he should have heeded medical advice following a visit to University of Pittsburgh Medical Center East in 2017. He went to the hospital to have his then-swollen feet examined. After assessing Fetterman’s foot condition and vital signs, cardiologist Ramesh R. Chandra diagnosed him with an irregular heartbeat, atrial fibrillation (which means the heart’s upper chambers beat inconsistently with the lower chambers) and a decreased heart pump. 

The physician issued a statement indicating he prescribed medications for Fetterman, who was then mayor of Braddock. He also advised dietary restrictions and exercise and asked to see Fetterman again several months later. Nonetheless, the doctor did not see his patient again until after the candidate suffered his stroke. 

Fetterman said he “almost died” as a consequence of not taking Chandra’s advice but hopes that his mistake and resultant close call can be a cautionary tale for those who experience treatable medical problems.

“It’s not something I’m proud of, but it is something I hope that others can learn from,” the lieutenant governor said. “So please: listen to your body, and be aware of the signs. Because ignoring them — and avoiding the doctor because you might not like what they have to tell you — could cost you your life.” 

Fetterman’s stroke was treated and reversed quickly and, though not using a pacemaker, he is reportedly experiencing an otherwise thorough recovery. Chandra said that his prognosis for senatorial hopeful is positive, provided Fetterman acts according to doctor’s orders.

“The prognosis I can give for John’s heart is this: if he takes his medications, eats health 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.” 

The cardiologist added he and Fetterman have made a follow-up appointment to take place in six months.

In November, Fetterman will face Republican surgeon and television personality Mehmet Oz in the contest to succeed retiring Sen. Pat Toomey (R). 

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Bradley Vasoli is managing editor of The Pennsylvania Daily Star. Follow Brad on Twitter at @BVasoli. Email tips to [email protected].
Photo “John Fetterman” by Governor Tom Wolf. CC BY 2.0.