In Pennsylvania, Feltman’s health sparks controversial debate in final stages

WALLINGFORD, Pa. — Minutes after the rally, John Feltman told the crowd he wanted to address the “elephant in the room.”

“I had a stroke, as you all know,” the Democratic Senate candidate said here Saturday. “I Gotta give a lunatic – sorry – the locals shouted to Penn Medicine to save my life. “

Feltman, 53, explained that he sometimes stumbles over his words and has “auditory processing” issues. He asked those at the rally to raise their hands if they or a loved one dealt with a serious health problem. Almost every hand was raised.

Since he suffered a stroke just days before the primary, Feltman and his allies have been trying to make his recovery a lesson in compassion.The event has Shared information from people who say Feltman has inspired them to prioritize their health. After Saturday’s event, Feltman knelt down to talk to a wheelchair-bound woman who also suffered a stroke.

Republicans, including Feltman’s opponent Mohamed Oz, have made the aftermath of the stroke central to their attack on him. Some have called attention to his verbal struggles, reliance on closed captioning and summer absences.Republican National Committee last week shared a montage Feltman’s text stumbles across the title, “Does it sound like Feltman is fit for public office?” Oz suggested Feltman had something to hide, recently on twitter: “John Feltman won’t answer voters’ questions, he won’t debate more than once, and he won’t be honest about his health.”

Now, in the closing weeks of one of the most important and competitive Senate races in the country, Feltman’s health has become a focal point for both campaigns.

Feltman’s campaign has repeatedly declined requests to interview his doctor or to review updated medical information beyond its previously released release. The last doctor’s medical information made public by Feltman’s movement came from a June 3 letter from his cardiologist explaining that the defibrillator surgery performed 17 days earlier was to treat a previously undisclosed Cardiomyopathy diagnosis, not treatment of atrial fibrillation (A-fib) as the campaign originally claimed.

Disability advocates and Feltman supporters rallied to his defense recently when an NBC News reporter questioned whether he understood her without subtitles in Feltman’s first in-person interview since her stroke.political campaign A TV commercial was released last week showing Feltman at home with his family, in which he discusses his stroke and how it made him realize what really matters.

“John is clearly acute and healthy, and he also has a lingering auditory processing problem that his doctors expect to disappear,” Feltman spokesman Joe Calvillo said in part in a statement. The campaign declined to make Feltman available for an interview.

Feltman’s team said he was fit to serve in the Senate and continued to improve. He stepped up the pace of his campaign, and recently spent nearly an hour answering questions in a live interview with a local news outlet, with few lapses in words. His rally speech was longer than when he first returned to the campaign in the summer. He continues to work with a speech therapist and takes time out almost every day to walk a few miles to discuss Feltman’s recovery more publicly, according to a person familiar with the situation who asked not to be named.

Four of the top neurologists consulted by The Washington Post, who did not treat Fetterman, said he appeared to have recovered well from a severe stroke with no apparent long-term effects other than admitting difficulties understanding spoken language and finding words . Two’s assessments were based in part on a review of an NBC News interview, while the other two’s comments were based on a review of his symptoms.

All the doctors interviewed for this story emphasized that they did not care about Feltman and had no access to his medical records, cognitive tests or brain images, so they could not make conclusive statements about his specific case.

“It’s not going to get any worse,” said Lee H. Schwamm, C. Miller Fisher Chair of Vascular Neurology at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. “It may recover within weeks to months, it may recover within a year, or it may not recover further.”

Feltman made the same gesture with both hands during an interview with NBC News, said Wade Smith, a professor of neurology at the University of California, San Francisco, who watched the session. Smith said the sides of his face moved just as well, and he walked without the use of crutches or other support in public. All of this suggests that he did not suffer the other typical injuries of a severe stroke.

Republicans say they are dissatisfied with the level of information Feltman has shared about his health and are using it to push a larger argument against his candidacy. “I don’t think he’s been very transparent and forthright about the situation,” said Charlie Dent, a former Republican congressman from Pennsylvania who backed Oz. “They seemed to underestimate the problem at first.”

Feltman won the Democratic nomination just days after his stroke but did not fully disclose his medical condition. More than two weeks later, he revealed that he was diagnosed with cardiomyopathy in 2017, causing his heart to pump less blood and failing to take medication and follow up with doctors.

Feltman’s doctor Ramesh Chandra said in a letter published in June: “The prediction I can make about John’s heart is that if he takes medication, eats healthy and exercises, he will be fine. He did what I told him, and I believe he is taking his recovery and his health very seriously this time, and he should be able to run for and serve in the U.S. Senate without a problem.”

In an interview with PennLive’s editorial board, Feltman defended not releasing more recent medical records. “If anything changes, I’ll update it,” he said.

People with a weakened heart have a wide variety of outcomes, from those with few or no symptoms such as difficulty breathing to those with severe symptoms, including fluid retention and Inability to tolerate medication.

Oz, 62, published three letters his doctors wrote in 2014, 2018 and 2022 describing his health as “very good”, including a near-ideal BMI of 25. The ratio of “good” cholesterol to “bad” cholesterol is not prescribed by drugs such as statins. A polyp was removed from his colon in 2010. Follow-up after one year was normal.

After speaking without a teleprompter for more than 20 minutes on Saturday, Feltman walked into the crowd, shook hands with supporters and posed for selfies, smiling and nodding as they moved between them. When he saw Mary Battle, 70, an Air Force veteran repairing jets during the Vietnam War, in a wheelchair, he knelt down to her level. She said she had a stroke three months ago. She gave him a miniature guardian angel amulet to watch over him.

“So, I know where he’s from,” Bart said. “I know how difficult it is to put the words together correctly, so I’m totally in sync with him.”

Earlier in the day, Feltman spoke briefly at a health care union rally in north Philadelphia. When he stumbled across the word “labor,” a woman shouted, “Take your time, baby.”

Zelma Carroll, 55, a certified nursing assistant, said to her he looked frail but mentally strong.

“Honestly, I think he’s doing his best to get here,” she said. “He appeared before us. He knew his purpose.”

The live debate between Feltman and Oz continued in October. 25. Fetterman plans to use a closed-captioning system during debates, as he did in a recent interview, to compensate for his hearing problems. Disability advocates say these types of accommodations should be normalized and not seen as harmful.

“Once people with auditory processing problems have access to information, they process that information as healthy as they would through any other mechanism,” said Brooke Hatfield, associate director of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association. “The decisions they make, their It’s not a compromised process of using this information or analyzing it and what they do with it.”

On Capitol Hill, subtitle accommodation was provided for witnesses and staff who came to testify before Congress, such as David Bahar, a deaf former legislative assistant to the Washington governor. Jay Inslee (D) during Inslee’s House of Representatives.

Bahar recalled that he was able to receive real-time transcription services at meetings, hearings and on the floor of the House of Representatives. Bahar also pointed out that there are already TV screens in the Senate hall where visitors can watch live recordings of live discussions, including subtitles on the screen.

“If they can provide that, they can also figure out how to provide subtitles in the Senate,” he said.

Sarah Blahovec, an expert on civic engagement with disabilities, expressed disappointment at what she sees as the stigma surrounding cognitive impairment by politicians on both sides of the aisle. “That’s the discourse we see all the time,” she said. “We focus on one thing and exclude all other things that may or may not qualify them for office.”

senator. Robert P. Casey Jr. (D-Pa.) said he believes Feltman has made “remarkable” progress based on several conversations he has had with Feltman over the past few months. Casey said Feltman has demonstrated his ability to understand when someone is talking to him and react accordingly. At smaller meetings, Feltman “seems to be fine,” he said. But Casey wouldn’t speculate on whether Feltman will fully recover from his auditory processing issues by January.

Other politicians, such as former Senator Mark Kirk (R-Illinois), Senator. Chris Van Hollen, MD, and Rep. Anthony G. Brown (D-Md.) had strokes of varying degrees, but both returned to work.

Kirk, who faced a difficult recovery, returned to the Senate in early 2013, about a year after suffering a stroke. He later lost to the senator in his 2016 re-election bid. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), then a member of the House of Representatives. In an interview Friday, Duckworth said she didn’t focus on Kirk’s stroke during her campaign with Kirk, and that he remained in effect until his last day in office. The focus on Feltman’s stroke recovery is worrying, she said, because other lawmakers make regular adjustments.

Rep. Jim Langevin (DR.I.), who has been in office for 20 years and was the first quadriplegic to serve in the U.S. House of Representatives, remembers facing doubts about his ability to do the job because of his disability, he said .

“There’s this hint of ‘Can he do his job? Can he serve effectively?’ he added.

He also recalled a brain haemorrhage in 2006 when former Sen. Tim Johnson (DS.D.) was in office. Johnson was initially in critical condition and later required months of rehabilitation to resolve his speech and movement problems. But Johnson eventually returned to work and was able to chair the Banking Committee. Langevin recalled that Johnson was still able to do his job well with some accommodation. Johnson was running for re-election in 2008, and his opponents raised questions about his mental health. Johnson won by a big margin.

Thirteen voters who backed Donald Trump in 2016 and Joe Biden in 2020 were asked about Feltman’s Health status. Most said it would not affect their support for him and expressed general concern about his overall health.

A Fox News poll released in late September asked Pennsylvania voters if they were concerned that Feltman “may not be healthy enough to effectively carry out his job as a senator.” 43% said they were not worried at all, 24% said they were very worried, 10% said they were very worried, and 18% said they were somewhat worried.

At Saturday’s rally, raising hands affirming attendees’ experiences with major health challenges, Feltman told the crowd, “I certainly hope you don’t have a doctor in your life making fun of it or telling you you can’t work or be fit to serve.”

Bernstein and Morris reported from Washington. Paul Kane contributed to this report.

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