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Fetterman’s doctor says he is well enough to serve in public office

"How many times do you think Dr. Oz has been in Beaver County?" Fetterman asks. "Do you really think he would have ever gone to Beaver County if he wasn't running for the Senate? "
Oliver Morrison
90.5 WESA
"How many times do you think Dr. Oz has been in Beaver County?" Fetterman asks. "Do you really think he would have ever gone to Beaver County if he wasn't running for the Senate? "

In an effort to address ongoing political attacks on his health, Democratic U.S. Senate candidate John Fetterman released a letter from his doctor Wednesday saying that he was healthy enough to serve in the Senate.

Fetterman is “recovering well from his stroke and his health has continued to improve,” said a letter from UPMC physician Dr. Clifford Chen, who became his primary care physician after his stroke. “He has no work restrictions and can work full duty in public office.”

Chen said the evaluation was based on a checkup with Fetterman on Friday.

Fetterman suffered a stroke in May. His Republican opponent, Mehmet Oz, has called into question Fetterman’s fitness for office — and speculated whether Fetterman is using his health to avoid scrutiny of his positions. Oz’s campaign, and various media outlets, have pressed Fetterman to release additional medical records.

Chen wrote that Fetterman “spoke intelligently without cognitive deficit.” He said one lingering health issue from the stroke, an auditory processing issue that Fetterman has discussed repeatedly since returning to the campaign trail, ”has significantly improved” with regular speech therapy.

Fetterman can hear sounds such as music but sometimes still struggles to process the sounds he’s hearing and will miss words, Chen said.

All of Fetterman’s vital signs and blood work appeared normal. Chen said that he has been in touch with Fetterman’s neurologist and cardiologist, and that Fetterman is exercising regularly and taking medication to reduce his likelihood of suffering a stroke again.

Fetterman’s campaign has recently begun to use his auditory processing difficulties as a way to discuss his political platform. “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,” Fetterman said in a press release accompanying the health update on Wednesday.

Fetterman’s campaign previously released another letter in June from a different doctor, Dr. Ramesh Chandra of Alliance Cardiology, saying he expected Fetterman to make a full recovery. Chandra advised Fetterman to follow up in a few months to ensure he was progressing and following his health instructions.

Health questions have followed Fetterman on the campaign trail, as he has been unable to perform some functions that candidates do regularly, such as take questions after campaign events, and speak at length with supporters outside of one-on-one interviews.

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Fetterman has also been using speech-recognition software to help him read what reporters are asking him. Fetterman has disclosed his use of such captioning technology before, and it will be employed in an October 25 debate between him and Oz. But it became controversial last week after an NBC News reporter said Fetterman may have had trouble understanding her when he wasn’t using the software.

“It’s not easy recovering from a stroke in public — let alone doing it while running in the top Senate race in the country,” said Rebecca Katz, a senior advisor to Fetterman.

Rachel Tripp, a spokesperson for the Oz campaign said, "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."

Oliver Morrison is a general assignment reporter at WESA. He previously covered education, environment and health for PublicSource in Pittsburgh and, before that, breaking news and weekend features for the Wichita Eagle in Kansas.