Mar 31, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Fetterman returns home to Pennsylvania after hospital discharge

Sen. John Fetterman, wearing a dark gray suit, white shirt and blue tie, walks through the Senate basement with staffers.

Sen. John Fetterman (center). Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

Sen. John Fetterman (D-Pa.) on Friday returned to his home in Braddock, Penn., after being discharged from a hospital in Washington where he was treated for depression.

Driving the news: The first-term senator said in a statement that he will be back in the Senate when his colleagues return from recess on April 17.

What they’re saying: Fetterman said he was "extremely grateful to the incredible team" at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center.

  • "The care they provided changed my life," he said in the statement.
  • "I will have more to say about this soon, but for now I want everyone to know that depression is treatable, and treatment works," he added.

In a CBS News interview recorded during his stay, Fetterman said that despite winning his Senate race in November, his depression convinced him that he "actually lost," according to a partial transcript released Friday.

  • "You just won the biggest, you know, race in […] the country," he told CBS anchor Jane Pauley. "But depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost. And that’s exactly what happened."
  • Fetterman said it was "the start of […] a downward spiral."

Details: Fetterman had "severe symptoms of depression" when he was admitted in February, according to the lead doctor on the senator's treatment team.

  • In a discharge briefing provided by the senator's office, Dr. David Williamson — the neuropsychiatry chief and medical director at Walter Reed — said Fetterman exhibited other symptoms, including low energy and motivation, minimal speech, and slowed thinking.
  • He also experienced "feelings of guilt and worthlessness, but no suicidal ideation," Williamson said, per Fetterman's office.
  • Those symptoms had "progressively worsened over the preceding 8 weeks and Fetterman had stopped eating and taking fluids, causing him to develop low blood pressure," which Williamson said could have affected the senator's brain circulation.

The big picture: Fetterman’s mood "steadily improved" after he began treatment, which included reading a book on depression, Williamson said, adding that Fetterman "expressed a firm commitment to treatment over the long term."

  • "We believe that significant continued improvement is likely with continued outpatient rehabilitation," Williamson wrote. "His depression, now resolved, may have been a barrier to engagement."

Of note: Fetterman’s weeks-long hospital stay was one of several recent prolonged absences from the Senate.

  • Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) worked from home this week after completing physical therapy for injuries sustained during a fall at a fundraising dinner earlier this month.
  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) has been recovering at home in California since being hospitalized for shingles in early March.
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