"It doesn't make sense": More doctors suspect John Fetterman is hiding something about his health

AP Photo/Marc Levy

Between today’s Philadelphia Inquirer story and the NYT scoop I wrote about a few days ago, it’s not really true that Fetterman is “hiding” his condition.

He’s *trying* to hide it. But to the expert eye, what little is known about his treatment in the hospital strongly suggests something more serious is going on than a “minor stroke” caused by atrial fibrillation.

To recap: According to Fetterman’s wife, a clot in his brain was removed via an incision in his groin, which medical experts told the Times sounds like a thrombectomy. Thrombectomies aren’t used for minor strokes. They’re used when a large artery in the brain is blocked, risking a severe stroke. If not for Mrs. Fetterman’s alertness in noticing the side of his mouth beginning to droop, prompting an immediate trip to the ER, God only knows how bad his condition today would be. Thankfully, prompt treatment seems to have neutralized the threat.

The other thing we know is that Fetterman was fitted with a pacemaker and defibrillator as part of his treatment. But a point made by experts in both news stories linked up top is that you don’t use a defibrillator to treat A-fib. The defibrillator targets an entirely different part of the heart. From the Inquirer:

“It doesn’t make sense,” Anthony Pearson, a St. Louis-based cardiologist who writes The Skeptical Cardiologist blog, said of the campaign’s account of Fetterman’s health…

While stressing that they have no direct knowledge of Fetterman’s medical situation, Cooper and Pearson said a defibrillator would never be implanted unless a patient had another condition besides A-fib.

That could mean some underlying heart condition was resulting in both A-fib and an increased risk of sudden cardiac arrest. Or it could mean the A-fib had been going on for a long time, leading to a weakened heart muscle that would necessitate the use of a defibrillator.

Either way, a defibrillator does not treat A-fib, a condition that arises in the left atrium, at the top of the heart. Instead, it shocks one of the heart’s lower chambers — the ventricles that pump blood.

You install a defibrillator when you’re worried about a patient suffering potential cardiac arrest. The device senses that the heart has stopped pumping in a coordinated rhythm and shocks it back into rhythm before catastrophe ensues.

Bottom line per the experts: Either the A-fib has caused a more serious underlying heart issue in Fetterman or a more serious underlying heart issue has caused the A-fib. But there’s more going on here than just atrial fibrillation. One doctor made that point to the Times as well, saying, “I think it would be fair to say he has at least two separate issues.”

Team Fetterman has no comment on any of this despite repeated questions from reporters. The closest thing to an official response came from Fetterman’s wife, who dismissed the idea of an underlying heart problem in an interview with the Inquirer. “I saw … speculations around his health by the doctors who didn’t treat him,” she said. “But the doctors who treated him, who are doctors, did not say that, no.”

Could it be that multiple experts who spoke to two major papers were all wrong in their conclusions? Or are the Fettermans lying for political advantage to prevent his health from becoming a campaign issue?

What would Occam’s Razor say?

Frankly, it’s remarkable that Fetterman hasn’t had more heart trouble. He was diagnosed with arrhythmia five years ago, Gisele Fetterman told the Inquirer, and his father and grandmother had the condition. On top of that, for as much as has been made of his size, he used to be *much* bigger. He’s nearly 6’9” and somewhere between 250 and 300 lbs, but not so long ago he was tipping the scales at around 400:

John Fetterman, center, the mayor of Braddock, Pa., comes forward to announce his candidacy for the U.S. Senate, Monday, Sept. 14, 2015, in Braddock. (AP Photo/Keith Srakocic)

That photo was taken in 2015. By 2018, he had dropped 150 lbs. I wonder if that diet was connected to his arrhythmia diagnosis a year earlier, possibly with doctors warning him that he wouldn’t get to see his kids grow up if he didn’t take action.

If so, it leads us to wonder: When, precisely, did Fetterman first discover that he had a more serious underlying heart issue? Was Gisele Fetterman eagle-eyed about his drooping mouth because she’s perceptive by nature or are she and her husband on the lookout for signs of stroke because they know something about his condition that we don’t?

I’ll leave you with the new ad from his likely Senate opponent, who’s now describing himself as the “presumptive” Republican nominee. Say what you will about Oz but years of experience on television have made him smooth on camera.