Freshman Democratic Sen. John Fetterman of Pennsylvania likely will be in the hospital much longer than many expected, according to NBC News.
The senator, who has had extensive health issues, including a stroke while on the campaign trail, checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Wednesday to treat symptoms of “clinical depression,” according to a news release shared on Twitter by his wife, Gisele.
NBC News correspondent Dasha Burns reported Friday that Fetterman is expected to have a long stay at the hospital.
“A senior aide to Senator Fetterman tells me he will likely be in inpatient care for clinical depression for ‘a few weeks,’” Burns said on Twitter.
NEW: A senior aide to Senator Fetterman tells me he will likely be in inpatient care for clinical depression for “a few weeks.”
— Dasha Burns (@DashaBurns) February 17, 2023
“A senior aide says it’s been difficult to distinguish the stroke from the depression – saying it’s hard to tell at times if Fetterman is ‘not hearing you, or is he sort of crippled by his depression and social anxiety,’” she tweeted.
A senior aide says it’s been difficult to distinguish the stroke from the depression – saying it’s hard to tell at times if Fetterman is “not hearing you, or is he sort of crippled by his depression and social anxiety.”
— Dasha Burns (@DashaBurns) February 17, 2023
It’s worth noting that Burns was attacked by other reporters and Fetterman’s wife in October after she reported on his ongoing health difficulties.
“He still has lingering auditory processing issues as a result of the stroke, which means he has a hard time understanding what he’s hearing,” Burns said at the time.
MSNBC: John Fetterman “has a hard time understanding what he’s hearing…he still has some problems, some challenges with speech…he had a hard time understanding our conversations.” pic.twitter.com/EYLNVxb0Cy
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 11, 2022
“This is just nonsense,” business reporter and podcaster Kara Swisher said in a tweet about Burns’ report. “Maybe this reporter is just bad at small talk.”
Gisele Fetterman said the NBC News reporter should face “consequences” for the report, which she said was “openly ableist” toward her husband.
In the news release Wednesday, Fetterman’s chief of staff, Adam Jentleson, said, “While John has experienced depression off and on throughout his life, it only became severe in recent weeks.”
“On Monday, John was evaluated by Dr. Brian P. Monahan, the Attending Physician of the United States Congress,” Jentleson said. “Yesterday, Dr. Monahan recommended inpatient care at Walter Reed. John agreed, and he is receiving treatment on a voluntary basis.
“After examining John, the doctors at Walter Reed told us that John is getting the care he needs, and will soon be back to himself.”
After what he’s been through in the past year, there’s probably no one who wanted to talk about his own health less than John. I’m so proud of him for asking for help and getting the care he needs. pic.twitter.com/SfuwWTSUcG
— Gisele Barreto Fetterman (@giselefetterman) February 16, 2023
This is the second time Fetterman has been hospitalized during his brief time as a senator. Earlier this month, he was admitted to George Washington University Hospital after experiencing light-headedness.
According to NBC News, senior aides to the senator gave insight into how the depression was influencing Fetterman’s behavior and why it gave them cause for alarm.
One said Fetterman had become “more and more reserved with staff,” the outlet reported.
“This isn’t who he was when he was early in recovery,” a top aide said, referring to his stroke recovery in May. “This is a much different beast.”
Despite these hits to his physical and mental well-being, the prospect of Fetterman resigning from his Senate seat “was never discussed, not even on the table in any sense,” the aide said.
According to the American Stroke Association, depression is not unusual in the aftermath of a stroke.
“Post-stroke depression is very, very common. Estimates are somewhere up to a third of patients with stroke will have depression at some point after their stroke,” Dr. Lee Schwamm, a neurologist at Massachusetts General Hospital, told NBC News.
However, it’s much less common for the depression to lead to hospitalization, Schwamm said.
Fetterman has received an outpour of support, including from President Joe Biden and his wife.
“John, Gisele – Jill and I are thinking about your family today,” Biden tweeted.
“Millions of people struggle with depression every day, often in private,” he said. “Getting the care you need is brave and important. We’re grateful to you for leading by example.”
John, Gisele – Jill and I are thinking about your family today.
Millions of people struggle with depression every day, often in private.
Getting the care you need is brave and important. We’re grateful to you for leading by example. https://t.co/V3rGZSKrM4
— President Biden (@POTUS) February 17, 2023
Fetterman’s absence from Senate is sure to cause issues as the heavily divided body, with Democrats holding a very slim majority, is set to vote on issues such as raising the debt ceiling.
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