Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman has primary day surgery after stroke

·3 min read

Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, the front-runner in the state's Democratic Senate primary race, completed a "successful procedure" to get a pacemaker and defibrillator on Tuesday afternoon, his campaign said later that day, after he suffered a stroke late last week.

"John Fetterman just completed a successful procedure to implant a pacemaker with a defibrillator. The procedure began at 3:15pm, John was released at 5:56pm, and he has been given the all-clear that it was successful. He is resting at the hospital and recovering well. John continues to improve every day, and he is still on track for a full recovery," the campaign said in a statement.

Dr. Jay Bhatt, an internal medicine physician, instructor at the University of Illinois School of Public Health and ABC News contributor, said procedures to implant a defibrillator and pacemaker are "common but carry risks of infection, bleeding, and complications and inappropriate shocks from the defibrillator."

Fetterman's campaign announced his procedure earlier Tuesday, saying it would "help protect his heart and address the underlying cause of his stroke, atrial fibrillation (A-fib), by regulating his heart rate and rhythm." His health challenges had kept him off the campaign trail since the stroke last week and he was hospitalized on primary day.

Dr. Bhatt explained how Fetterman's heart condition could have caused his stroke: "Atrial fibrillation can cause stroke if left untreated. If a blood clot in the upper chamber of heart caused by atrial fibrillation breaks free it can go to the brain and cause a stroke. It can be a minor issue or a more serious issue. Those with Afib are three to five times greater risk for stroke."

Fetterman's campaign released a photo of him Tuesday morning voting with an emergency absentee ballot from the hospital, where he is recovering. His team had said that he would not be attending his election night party and would remain in the hospital. His wife, Gisele, will speak in his place.

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PHOTO: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, attends a meet-and-greet in Easton, Pa., May 1, 2022.  (Hannah Beier/Reuters)
PHOTO: Lt. Gov. John Fetterman, Democratic Senate candidate for Pennsylvania, attends a meet-and-greet in Easton, Pa., May 1, 2022. (Hannah Beier/Reuters)

The lieutenant governor since 2019, Fetterman entered the national spotlight when he launched his campaign for the Senate last February. A progressive, he is vying for the Democratic Party nomination against the more moderate Rep. Conor Lamb and others. The general election there, later this year, could help decide the balance of power in Congress.

The front-runner's stroke in a race that Democrats see as their best shot for a pickup in Senate follows two other Democrats currently serving in the Senate recovering from strokes this year. Maryland Sen. Chris Van Hollen announced on Sunday that he suffered a minor stroke and had been hospitalized. New Mexico Sen. Ben Ray Luján underwent brain surgery in January following a stroke that left him hospitalized for weeks, but he returned to the Senate in March.

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Fetterman doesn't fit the mold for what a typical senator looks like: Standing 6-foot-8, he is bald, goateed and tattooed and frequently eschews traditional suits and ties in favor of shorts and Dickies shirts.

He earned his master's degree in public policy from Harvard University but has campaigned with a blue-collar approach, having served as the mayor of the small borough of Braddock, just outside Pittsburgh, for 16 years before being elected alongside Gov. Tom Wolf, a fellow Democrat, four years ago.

PHOTO: Gisele Barreto Fetterman, wife of Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate for Pennsylvania, talks with reporters outside her polling place after voting in Braddock, Pa., May 17, 2022. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)
PHOTO: Gisele Barreto Fetterman, wife of Pennsylvania Lt. Governor John Fetterman, who is running for the Democratic nomination for the Senate for Pennsylvania, talks with reporters outside her polling place after voting in Braddock, Pa., May 17, 2022. (Gene J. Puskar/AP)

Fetterman previously ran for Senate in 2016, but lost in the primary.

Speaking with ABC News outside a polling place in his district on Tuesday, Lamb said of Fetterman amid his health challenges, "I wish him well."

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PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport in Lemont Furnace, Pa., May 10, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
PHOTO: Pennsylvania Lt. Gov. John Fetterman campaigns for U.S. Senate at a meet and greet at Joseph A. Hardy Connellsville Airport in Lemont Furnace, Pa., May 10, 2022. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)

Lamb called their race a choice between "two very different paths based on two different sets of experience and two different personalities."

The three leading candidates to watch in the Pennsylvania Democratic primary race are Fetterman and Lamb as well as state Rep. Malcolm Kenyatta. Polls close at 8 p.m. ET.

ABC News' Hannah Demissie, Devin Dwyer and Oren Oppenheim contributed to this report.

Pennsylvania Senate hopeful John Fetterman has primary day surgery after stroke originally appeared on abcnews.go.com

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