Senator John Fetterman ready to make up for ‘lost time’ after leaving hospital | US news

Having just been discharged from a hospital which treated him for mental depression for six weeks, the US senator from Pennsylvania John Fetterman has said he is committed “to start making up [for] any lost time”.

“My aspiration is to take my son to the restaurant that we were supposed to go [to] during his birthday but couldn’t because I had checked myself in for depression,” the first-term Democratic senator said in an interview with CBS News that was aired Sunday. “And being the kind of dad, the kind of husband and the kind of senator that Pennsylvania deserves.”

Fetterman’s remarks to CBS were recorded days before Friday’s announcement that he had been discharged from Washington DC’s Walter Reed medical center after a hospitalization of more than a month. He spoke frankly in the interview about the circumstances that convinced him to seek inpatient treatment for depression.

In November, the 53-year-old former mayor of Braddock, Pennsylvania, and ex-state lieutenant governor known for wearing shorts and hooded sweatshirts defeated Republican celebrity doctor Mehmet Oz for an open Senate seat. Fetterman’s victory over Oz – who was endorsed by former president Donald Trump – helped give the Democrats control of the upper congressional chamber by a margin of 51 seats to 49, firmly establishing his status as a rising star in his party.

But during the campaign, Fetterman – who is also known for his imposing, 6ft 8in physical frame – had suffered a stroke that he says nearly killed him. The medical ordeal required him to be hospitalized for a time, which Republicans tried to use to argue that he was unfit for office.

Medical experts say that as many as a third of stroke patients later develop symptoms of mental depression, with which Fetterman had already privately struggled for years.

Then, those around Fetterman noticed that he seemed to be emotionally miserable when he was sworn in on 3 January. He said he had stopped eating in the preceding weeks, had been losing weight and was struggling to find the energy to get out of bed, too. He also was no longer engaging in the usual banter or work discussions with his staff and had been avoiding spending time with his wife, Gisele, and their three children, who are between the ages of eight and 14.

“The whole thing about depression is that, objectively, you may have won [the Senate seat] – but depression can absolutely convince you that you actually lost,” Fetterman said in the interview on Sunday. “And that’s exactly what happened. And that was the start of a downward spiral.”

Gisele Barreto Fetterman told CBS that she initially had a hard time understanding what her husband could be depressed about. “He just became a senator, he’s married to me, he has amazing kids and he’s still depressed? And I think the outside would look and say, ‘How does this happen?’”

But she said she read as much as she could about depression and learned that the very nature of the complex condition means it “does not make sense, right? It’s not rational.”

Fetterman checked into the Walter Reed medical center for clinical depression treatment on 15 February, which was the day of his son’s 14th birthday and marked a week after his having been briefly hospitalized for feeling lightheaded.

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The Democrat’s most recent hospitalization drew some political fire from the Republican side of the aisle, which has continued casting aspersions about his physical fitness.

Yet while a hospital stay of six weeks is longer than is typical for inpatient treatment for depression, many others have praised Fetterman for publicly disclosing that he had sought care. They said Fetterman’s choice could inspire people who need help and are scared to get it to overcome their reluctance.

“My message right now isn’t political,” Fetterman said in Sunday’s interview. “I’m just somebody that’s suffering from depression.”

Fetterman was back home on Sunday and, according to his office, intended to return to Capitol Hill for when the Senate was scheduled to resume its work on 17 April. Democrats are counting on Fetterman to provide them with votes for some nominations in the chamber that they have been struggling to ratify without him.

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