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John Fetterman is in good health, his doctor says in a new medical report

The doctor, who examined Lt. Gov. John Fetterman five months after his stroke, said he “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits.”

Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman speaks in front of supporters and SEIU members at the SEIU Rally and Canvas Launch at Norris Square Park in Philadelphia, Pa., Saturday., Oct., 15, 2022.
Lieutenant Governor John Fetterman speaks in front of supporters and SEIU members at the SEIU Rally and Canvas Launch at Norris Square Park in Philadelphia, Pa., Saturday., Oct., 15, 2022.Read moreTyger Williams / Staff Photographer

John Fetterman’s primary care physician said he continues to recover well from his stroke after an examination Friday, saying the Democratic nominee for U.S. Senate “has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

Clifford Chen, a doctor at UPMC in Duquesne, released a detailed medical report based on his examination, which the campaign provided to The Inquirer late Tuesday. The report, the latest information from someone who has examined Fetterman since the campaign released a note from his cardiologist in June, confirms the campaign’s ongoing assertions that Fetterman is in good health.

“I’ve been feeling good, and I feel strong, but absolutely it’s good to actually see numbers be put on paper,” Fetterman said in an interview with The Inquirer on Wednesday. “You can see where you’re at ... and as we’ve always maintained, our doctors have been very confident that we’re able to — fit to serve — and we’ve been very transparent about our issues and our challenges throughout all of this.”

Chen, who became Fetterman’s primary care physician shortly after Fetterman’s stroke in May, said Fetterman’s physical exam was normal, with normal readings for blood pressure, heart rate, and oxygen level.

“His lung exam was clear, heart rate was regular and his strength was normal in all four extremities without any strength or coordination deficits,” Chen wrote in his one-page report dated Saturday. (Strokes can affect muscles in the arms, legs, hands, and feet.)

Chen also said Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficits.” He said that Fetterman continues to exhibit symptoms of auditory processing disorder (understanding certain spoken words) but that “his communication is significantly improved compared to his first visit, assisted by speech therapy, which he has attended on a regular basis since the stroke.”

Campaign finance reports show Chen donated $500 directly to Fetterman’s campaign in January 2021 and has given to other Democratic candidates and fund-raising groups.

» READ MORE: What are auditory processing issues, and how are they treated?

The release of the examination report comes 20 days before one of the nation’s most closely watched Senate elections, which could determine control of the chamber. It’s also one week before Fetterman will debate Republican opponent Mehmet Oz, who has continued to pressure Fetterman’s campaign to release his medical records. On Tuesday, Oz’s campaign sent out a letter signed by 15 Pennsylvania doctors calling on Fetterman to release medical records.

On Wednesday, following the release of the letter, Oz’s senior campaign strategist, Barney Keller, said: “That’s good news that John Fetterman’s doctor gave him a clean bill of health. ... And now that he apparently is healthy, he can debate for 90 minutes, start taking live questions from voters and reporters, and do a second debate now too.”

Fetterman’s stroke and ongoing recovery has become a central focus of the race. Fetterman, who said the stroke nearly killed him, has insisted he’s fully capable of serving in the Senate. In recent weeks, he has increased his public appearances and campaign events and spoken for longer durations during his stump speeches.

Oz’s campaign, meanwhile, has continued to question Fetterman’s health and the campaign’s transparency. The two will face off in the first and only Senate debate in Harrisburg on Tuesday. Fetterman will use closed captioning, as he has for one-on-one interviews, to ensure he understands the questions amid his auditory processing issues.

Fetterman has said himself that while he continues to improve, he’s unsure how long the auditory processing challenges will persist.

“There’s no guarantee that I’ll ever be 100%,” he told The Inquirer’s editorial board last week. “But I have been able to be functioning and giving you an interview here today, or getting up in front of 3,000 people. To me, that’s the ultimate transparency.”

» READ MORE: Inflation is still voters’ top concern. We took a look at what Fetterman and Oz say they would do.

Stroke recovery specialists interviewed by The Inquirer previously have said patients with lingering speech and auditory challenges typically see the most improvement in the first six months to a year but can continue to recover for three years or more.

The new letter from Fetterman’s physician suggests the candidate is recovering well and is taking appropriate steps to reduce the risk of another stroke, MossRehab brain-injury specialist Thomas Watanabe said Wednesday.

Among the promising signs are Fetterman’s low cholesterol levels, coupled with the fact that he is said to be exercising regularly and taking medicine to prevent a recurrence of stroke, said Watanabe, clinical director of the stroke rehab program at Moss, which is part of Jefferson Health. That likely refers to an anticoagulant — a blood thinner designed to reduce the risk of blood clots in the heart, which in turn could travel to the brain (the definition of a stroke).

“It seems that he’s generally healthy, which is good,” he said.

In his report, Chen noted Fetterman will “miss” an occasional word, “which seems like he doesn’t hear the word but it is actually not processed properly.” He said Fetterman’s ability to hear sounds and music is unaffected.

Fetterman, in a statement provided to The Inquirer, said he’s been grateful for support on the trail.

“Since my stroke five months ago, one of the best parts of this campaign has been the unbelievable number of Pennsylvanians who have shared their own stories with us about the major health problems they’ve faced and overcome in their lives,” he said. “It reminds me why I’m fighting to slash health care costs and make it so every Pennsylvanian can spend more time with the people they love.”

What else is in Fetterman’s health report?

Fetterman had a pacemaker and defibrillator implanted in his chest four days after his May 13 stroke to treat atrial fibrillation, or irregular heartbeat, and cardiomyopathy.

In June, the Fetterman campaign released a doctor’s letter in which Fetterman’s cardiologist publicly scolded the lieutenant governor for ignoring medical advice and not seeing a doctor for five years leading up to the stroke. That doctor gave Fetterman a good prognosis if he followed instructions moving forward. The campaign declined to make doctors available for interviews.

» READ MORE: Fetterman says he ‘almost died,’ but cardiologist says his prognosis, despite ignoring medical advice, is now good

Chen’s report this week also included results from Fetterman’s lab tests, which showed normal levels of cholesterol and triglycerides. Kidney function, electrolytes, liver function, and vitamin levels were also normal, Chen said.

Chen said he’s spoken with Fetterman’s neurologist and cardiologist, both of whom Fetterman will follow up with routinely. He said Fetterman is exercising — walking four to five miles regularly — and taking medications “to optimize his heart condition and prevent future strokes.”

» READ MORE: NBC News is getting some heat for its interview with John Fetterman

Fetterman also received flu and pneumonia vaccines.

“Overall, Lt. Governor Fetterman is well and shows strong commitment to maintaining good fitness and health practices,” Chen said.

Oz in September released a letter from his primary care doctor, based in Manhattan, which detailed similar tests, labs, and examinations provided in Fetterman’s letter. Oz’s doctor described his cholesterol level as slightly elevated but his overall health as excellent.

Staff writer Tom Avril contributed to this article.