Senator Fetterman Set for Lengthy Hospital Stay

From a Wall Street Journal story by Siobhan Hughes headlined “Sen John Fetterman Set for Lengthy Hospital Stay”:

Senator John Fetterman could remain hospitalized for more than a month as the Pennsylvania Democrat undergoes treatment for depression, a senior aide said, following a series of health setbacks.

On Wednesday, Mr. Fetterman checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center, the second hospitalization for the freshman senator in recent weeks. His office said that Mr. Fetterman has experienced depression off and on throughout his life and that the senator voluntarily entered the hospital after consulting with the attending physician for Congress, Dr. Brian P. Monahan.

A senior aide to Mr. Fetterman said Friday that the senator will remain hospitalized as doctors try out new medications and dosages to test their efficacy. Mr. Fetterman will also engage in talk therapy, the aide said, meeting with a professional therapist to discuss the experiences he has had, including the challenges of campaigning for office.

The hospital stay could range from weeks to more than a month, but likely less than two months, the aide said, citing the time frame the doctors are focusing on.

It is Mr. Fetterman’s second hospital stay in recent weeks. Mr. Fetterman attended the State of the Union address on the evening of Feb. 7 and the next day felt disoriented and was admitted to a Washington hospital. The aide said that Mr. Fetterman had gone to George Washington University Hospital due to being malnourished and dehydrated, and those problems re-emerged in the past week.

“It is a chicken and egg situation where when you are in the throes of clinical depression, it is very hard to apply self care,” the aide said.

Mr. Fetterman defeated Republican Mehmet Oz in a hard-fought race last fall, flipping a GOP-held seat and helping ensure Democrats would hold on to control of the Senate. But he had suffered a stroke during the campaign and had a pacemaker with a defibrillator implanted. After returning to the campaign trail, he sometimes struggled in his speech, including during his one debate with Mr. Oz.

“There’s a lot of absorbed negative experiences from [the campaign] that are probably worth unpacking in a therapeutic environment,” the aide said. “There’s a medication aspect to this, but there’s also a therapeutic aspect to this,” the aide said.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D., N.Y.) said Thursday he has no concerns over whether Mr. Fetterman would be able to serve out his term. Should he leave his position in the Senate, a replacement would be appointed by Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro, a Democrat. The Democratic caucus has a 51-49 majority in the Senate.

Lawmakers have rallied around Mr. Fetterman. “Seeking help when you need it is a sign of strength, not weakness, something that John is demonstrating for all of us,” tweeted Sen. Tina Smith (D., Minn.), who has previously detailed her struggles with depression.

Nearly one-third of stroke survivors experience depression, according to the American Stroke Association.

Mr. Fetterman has said that his stroke last year left him with communication problems but no cognitive impairment. ​​In the Senate, Mr. Fetterman has attended committee meetings and cast votes. He uses a closed captioning device to help follow conversations.

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