The Washington PostDemocracy Dies in Darkness

Sen. Fetterman hospitalized after feeling ‘lightheaded’; doctors rule out second stroke

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) at the Capitol before President Biden’s State of the Union address Tuesday. (Alex Wong/Getty Images)
3 min

Freshman Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) was hospitalized overnight Wednesday after suffering from lightheadedness, his team said. On Thursday, his doctors ruled out that he’d suffered a stroke.

Fetterman had been attending a retreat for Democratic senators when he began to feel “lightheaded.” He left the event and called staffers, who took him to George Washington University Hospital, his communications director, Joe Calvello, said in a statement to reporters.

Fetterman, 53, suffered a stroke in May, when he was Pennsylvania’s lieutenant governor and running for the Senate, but Calvello said “initial tests did not show evidence of a new stroke.”

In a second statement sent Thursday evening, Calvello said that Fetterman underwent an MRI scan and that the results of that test, “along with the results of all of the other tests the doctors ran, rule out a new stroke.”

“He is being monitored with an EEG for signs of seizure — so far there are no signs of seizure, but he is still being monitored,” Calvello said in the statement sent Thursday evening.

“He is in good spirits and talking with his staff and family,” he said in his first statement.

Biden-GOP exchanges at State of the Union forecast 2024 battle

Fetterman beat Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz in November to succeed retiring Republican Patrick J. Toomey and flip a seat that helped Democrats increase their Senate majority.

His stroke was in sharp focus during a televised debate in which he sometimes stumbled over his words and struggled with the rapid-fire format. Some viewers hailed his bravery, while others questioned his ability to work.

Pennsylvania Senate candidates Lt. Gov. John Fetterman (D) and Mehmet Oz (R) squared off in their first and only debate in Harrisburg, Pa., on Oct. 25. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

“I had a stroke that was caused by a clot from my heart being in an A-fib rhythm for too long,” he said in May. Doctors were able to “quickly and completely remove the clot,” he added. “It’s a good reminder to listen to your body and be aware of the signs.”

Democrats have a 51-seat majority in the Senate, and any absence could affect their agenda. There is little major legislation under consideration now given the small chance of it passing both chambers in an era of divided government. But Democrats still plan to get as many of President Biden’s judicial nominations through as possible.

On Thursday, Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.) said that Fetterman’s staff was “very optimistic” that he would be released from the hospital Thursday.

Fetterman’s primary care doctor said last October that Fetterman has “an auditory processing disorder which can come across as hearing difficulty.” He appears to “miss” or not hear some words that are spoken to him, but they actually are not being processed correctly, the doctor wrote. Fetterman attended speech therapy after his stroke.

Fetterman uses a screen with live closed caption technology on the Senate floor to follow speeches there, Time magazine first reported.