U.S. Sen. John Fetterman, D-Penn., is expected back to work “soon,” his office said Thursday, though a return is still more than a week away.
Fetterman, 53, was only weeks into his service when he checked himself into Walter Reed National Military Medical Center on Feb. 15. During his campaign in Pennsylvania, Fetterman’s health was repeatedly targeted by his critics.
“He’ll be back soon, at least over a week, but soon,” spokesperson Joe Calvello said Thursday.
It has been five weeks since Fetterman sought inpatient treatment for clinical depression. He served in his office for six weeks before he sought treatment.
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Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., was asked Wednesday about the freshman senator’s return and said only that he would continue to give him time and space to recover.
“We want to give him the space to recuperate,” Schumer said at a news conference. “He needs it, it’s fair, it’s right.”
Schumer added: “There are other people in the Senate who have taken their time to recuperate, but I’m confident he’s going to come back and be an outstanding and fine senator.”
Sen. Bob Casey, D-Pa., told the Associated Press that he has purposely not called Fetterman as “the last thing he needs is a lot of phone calls.” Casey said he spoke with staff who told him Fetterman has made “good progress,” but he did not know when the lawmaker would return.
“I’m just happy he’s getting the time that he needs, and most people understand that these things don’t occur over two or three weeks, it takes a little longer,” Casey said.
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When Fetterman took office in Washington, he was still recovering from the aftereffects of the stroke he had last May during the campaign, and his behavior declined after arriving.
He was already suffering from auditory processing disorder, which left him, at times, unable to speak fluidly or to process spoken conversation into meaning quickly. He uses devices in conversations, meetings, and congressional hearings that transcribe spoken words in real-time.
Before he checked into Walter Reed, staffers said Fetterman had not been his usual self for weeks and described him as withdrawn, showing disinterest in talking, eating and the usual banter with aides.
While recovering, Fetterman still receives daily in-person briefings by chief of staff Adam Jentleson, Calvello said.
The senator is reading the news and gets briefings, the spokesperson added. His office continues to issue statements and sponsor pieces of legislation.
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Fetterman’s office said he had experienced depression “off and on throughout his life,” but it only became severe after he took office.
Capitol physician Dr. Brian P. Monahan evaluated Fetterman and recommended hospitalization.
Post-stroke depression is treatable and is fairly common with 1 in 3 stroke patients experiencing it, doctors say.
Treatment typically includes antidepressant medication and counseling.
Fetterman initially suffered a life-threatening stroke last May during a three-way Democratic primary campaign race. He then had surgery to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator to manage his two heart conditions, atrial fibrillation and cardiomyopathy.
He won the primary while in the hospital and went on to defeat Republican nominee Dr. Mehmet Oz in the November general election.
Fetterman was sworn in on Jan. 3.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.