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John Fetterman on the mend, staff says, as wife and children flee to Canada to avoid media

By Ben Marquis
|
February 28, 2023

Sen. John Fetterman (D-PA) checked himself into a hospital nearly two weeks ago to receive help for clinical depression that was likely exacerbated by the stressful environment of the U.S. Senate amid his ongoing recovery from a serious stroke less than a year ago.

There have been questions from some since then about his health status and the whereabouts of his family, and now both his wife and a top aide have provided updates in that regard, the Daily Mail reported.

Those updates also sought to address speculation that Fetterman's health condition was worse than has been publicly revealed and that his family had fled the country while he was hospitalized.

Senator is "doing well" and "remains on a path to recovery"

On Monday, Sen. Fetterman’s Chief of Staff Joe Calvello posted a thread of tweets to share an update with the public with regard to the senator's current disposition as a patient at Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in Bethesda, Maryland.

"We don’t have a lot to update folks with since there’s no real news to report except that John is doing well, working with the wonderful doctors, and remains on a path to recovery," Calvello tweeted.

"John is visiting with staff and family daily, and his staff are keeping him updated on Senate business and news," he continued. "Our team is moving full speed ahead and working tirelessly for the people of Pennsylvania. Just last week we opened a new office in Erie and will be opening more."

The senator's top staffer added, "We understand the intense interest in John’s status and especially appreciate the flood of well-wishes. However, as we have said this will be a weeks-long process and while we will be sure to keep folks updated as it progresses, this is all there is to give by way of an update."

Wife and kids went on vacation to avoid media

As for the senator's wife, Gisele Barreto Fetterman, she did leave the country with their three children, according to the Daily Mail, albeit only to take them on an impromptu vacation as a means to avoid the heavy media coverage about her husband's health condition and hospitalization.

In a series of tweets posted last week, Fetterman wrote, "I am not really sure how to navigate this journey but am figuring it out slowly. 1 week ago today when the news dropped, the kids were off from school and media trucks circled our home. I did the first thing I could think of … pack them in the car and drive."

"We drove straight into … Canada (and lovely Buffalo NY) (Pro Tip: always have passports ready just in case you have to run away)," she continued. "We talked about lots of hard things and how we will all have to face hard things. About the need to be gentle … with all and with ourselves."

"We did some scary things but we did them together. We ziplined over Niagara Falls and August got stuck," Fetterman tweeted along with photos and videos. "We talked about flexibility and the need to always have an open heart and an open mind."

The senator's wife added, "We also talked about how joy and fun can and must still exist, even when someone we love is in pain. And tomorrow? Who knows. Will try all over again."

"No contingency plan" to replace Fetterman

To be sure, even before Sen. Fetterman was hospitalized to deal with clinical depression there had been legitimate questions and concerns about his health and capability to do the job that he was elected to do, given the widely reported auditory problems he has suffered since his stroke last May that has necessitated the use of special talk-to-text technology for Fetterman to understand what people around him are saying.

There has been no real talk about him resigning or being replaced, however, as was confirmed Monday by an interview Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro held with NBC News about the situation.

Asked if there were any plans in place to name a replacement if Fetterman were to suddenly resign or otherwise be deemed incapable of serving, the governor said, "There is no contingency plan and it is 100 percent Senator Fetterman’s decision as to what he will do in the future."

If there were to be a vacancy, it would be up to Shapiro to name an interim senator to serve in Fetterman's place until a special election could be held in November 2024 for voters to choose someone to fill out the remaining four years of the term.

However, the governor believes that Fetterman will "serve for a good long while," and said, "I’m proud of Senator Fetterman for getting the help that he needs and I’m there for Gisele and their family. And I know the people of Pennsylvania I’ve talked to are encouraging him along to get the help that he needs."