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Fetterman’s Doctor Details Senator’s Recovery From Depression

Senator John Fetterman of Pennsylvania has been released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after nearly seven weeks of successful treatment for severe depression.

Fetterman, a Democrat, returned to his home in Braddock, Pennsylvania, on Friday after his medical team determined that he was “ready to return to his family, pursue outpatient treatment, and resume work,” according to a press release from his office.

The senator is expected to remain in his hometown until returning to Washington, D.C., when the Senate resumes session April 17. He was admitted to Walter Reed on February 15.

“I am so happy to be home,” Fetterman said in a statement. “I’m excited to be the father and husband I want to be, and the senator Pennsylvania deserves. Pennsylvanians have always had my back, and I will always have theirs.”

Fetterman's Doctor Details Senator's Recovery From Depression
Democratic Senator John Fetterman walks through the Statuary Hall of the U.S. Capitol prior to President Joe Biden’s State of the Union address on February 7, 2023, in Washington, D.C. Fetterman has been released from Walter Reed National Military Medical Center after being treated for depression. He said the care that he received at Walter Reed has changed his life.
Alex Wong/Getty

“I am extremely grateful to the incredible team at Walter Reed,” he added. “The care they provided changed my life. I will have more to say about this soon, but for now I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works.”

The senator went on to say that seeking treatment for depression “isn’t about politics” and urged “people who are suffering with depression in red counties and blue counties” to “please get help.”

Dr. David Williamson, Walter Reed’s neuropsychiatry chief and medical director, said in the press release that Fetterman had been suffering with “severe symptoms of depression” when he was first admitted, including “low energy and motivation, minimal speech, poor sleep, slowed thinking, slowed movement, feelings of guilt and worthlessness,” although without any “suicidal ideation.”

“Symptoms had progressively worsened over the preceding 8 weeks and Fetterman had stopped eating and taking fluids, causing him to develop low blood pressure potentially affecting brain circulation,” according to Williamson.

Fetterman, who had a stroke caused by an underlying heart issue in May, underwent a series of tests while he was hospitalized. The Walter Reed medical team concluded that he had not suffered any new strokes and his “neurological exam was stable compared with past assessments.”

Testing also revealed that the senator’s heart issue “showed improvement from last year,” while “poor hydration and weight loss” was thought to be partially responsible for low blood pressure at the time he was admitted.

“Over the subsequent weeks, Fetterman’s mood steadily improved,” Williamson said. “Sleep was restored, he ate well and hydrated, and he evidenced better mood, brighter affect and improved motivation, self-attitude, and engagement with others. His treatment gradually produced remission of his depression.”

John Fetterman Walter Reed Release Depression Senate
Senator John Fetterman on Friday is pictured after being released from Walter Reed medical center in Bethesda, Maryland.
Office of Senator John Fetterman

Fetterman was found to be suffering from “mild to moderate sensorineural hearing loss” in both ears. He was fitted with hearing aids and worked with speech specialists, resulting in a “noticeable” improvement in his speaking abilities.

“With improvement in his depression, improvement in the patient’s speech abilities was noticeable and we believe that significant continued improvement is likely with continued outpatient rehabilitation,” Williamson said.

“Fetterman has expressed a firm commitment to engaging in this rehabilitation process,” he added. “His depression, now resolved, may have been a barrier to engagement.”

Fetterman’s medical team determined that his depression was in “remission” at the conclusion of his hospitalization, with symptoms being “managed with medication therapies.” Additional details concerning the senator’s plans for outpatient treatment were unclear.

On Thursday, while still hospitalized, Fetterman introduced his first bill as a U.S. senator, alongside fellow Democratic Senators Bob Casey of Pennsylvania and Sherrod Brown of Ohio.

The Railway Accountability Act is intended to strengthen train inspection requirements, addressing safety concerns raised by incidents like the February 3 toxic train derailment in East Palestine, Ohio.

Newsweek has reached out via email to Fetterman’s office for comment.

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