Pennsylvania Democratic senatorial candidate John Fetterman‘s disastrous debate performance Tuesday night came despite experiencing most of the improvement he is likely to see following a stroke in May, according to one neurologist.
Clues to the current Keystone State lieutenant governor’s cognitive problems had arisen before he squared off against Republican Dr. Mehmet Oz in their only debate of the campaign. But the extent of Fetterman’s struggles to hear, process and respond to questions was on full display in the debate, in which he gave a litany of incoherent answers to questions that were displayed for him on a closed captioning system.
“From watching the debate, I do think he has a type of aphasia, specifically a Broca’s aphasia, which essentially means there’s been some type of insult or damage to the part of the brain where language is produced but also language is understood,” Dr. Huma Sheikh, a neurologist specializing in migraines and strokes told NewsNation host Chris Cuomo after the debate. “It’s hard to tell from this how much his comprehension is impaired, because that requires different testing.”
Chris Cuomo: “Do you get better?”
Neurologist: “In the first 3-6 months [after a stroke] is where you see the most improvement…he’s about 6 months out now…this is probably where he has improved to…” pic.twitter.com/cxBPVvdM9Z
— Townhall.com (@townhallcom) October 26, 2022
Sheikh, who serves as assistant professor at Mount Sinai Beth Israel Hospital in New York, said it is possible Fetterman could continue to recover from the stroke he suffered just days before winning the Democratic primary. But most of his improvement have likely already occurred, she said.
“Essentially what we know is that in the first three to six months is where you see the most improvement,” Sheikh said. “There can be some improvement over the next year, but I think he’s about six months out now; this happened in May. So I think if he was doing therapy right after his stroke, this is probably where he has improved to the most.”
When Cuomo asked if Fetterman’s brain function is impaired, Sheikh said it is difficult to know how much he comprehends from his answers.
“In the brain, cognition and language are separated, but there’s so much interaction between them,” she said.
The doctor acknowledged that if she were a voter in Pennsylvania, she would have deployed concerns after watching Fetterman’s performance.
“I think from seeing what I saw, the fact that he has difficulty in expressing his thoughts, it would make me question: Is that an isolated issue or is there more to it?” she said. “It would make me want to gather some more information and have him talk more about what are the issues, be more transparent.”