FFive months after the Democratic candidate in one of the nation’s most competitive Senate races suffered a stroke, there is still much to learn about his recovery.
In the final weeks of the Pennsylvania Senate campaign, a major Republican attack against the state’s deputy governor, John Fetterman, focused on its use of closed captioning technology, which translates audio into text on the screen in real time. Rely on technology while Interview On Friday with NBC News, he gave his first in-person interview on camera since suffering a stroke in May.
“Sometimes I hear things in a way that’s not quite clear,” Fetterman said. “So I use captions so I can see what you’re saying.”
Here we know so far.
What do we know about Fettermann’s health?
Fetterman suffered a stroke in May, before winning the Pennsylvania Democratic primary for the Senate. In June, his campaign released a letter from his cardiologist saying he “should be able to campaign and serve in the US Senate without any problem.” He has not released information from his medical team since then.
Fetterman said earlier this year that his stroke was caused by a stroke. The type of stroke in which a blood clot blocks blood flow to the brain is called an ischemic stroke — the most common type of stroke and one of the leading causes of disability in America, according to February Report From the American Heart Association. Ischemic strokes can cause a variety of long-term conditions depending on which part of the brain connects to the blocked artery. According to Johns Hopkins MedicineA stroke in the left hemisphere can cause aphasia: difficulty finding the right words or understanding what others are saying, or both.
Does Fettermann have aphasia?
Fetterman’s campaign said in June that he does not suffer from aphasia, and his director of communications Joe Calvilo told TIME in October that’s still the case. Calvillo did not respond to a follow-up question about the differences between this case and Fettermann’s.
Fetterman’s need to use closed captioning reflects some of the challenges faced by the estimated one-third of stroke survivors dealing with aphasia. Some aphasia patients may struggle to speak in complete sentences, while others may use incorrect words. During the 32-minute interview with NBC, Fetterman mispronounced and confused several words before correcting himself. He would often pause to read the questions before answering. He has repeatedly dodged inquiries as to why his complete medical records were not disclosed.
Maria Town, president and CEO of the American Association of People with Disabilities, says Fetterman’s use of captioning technology doesn’t mean he won’t be able to do his job as a senator. “People use comments all the time,” Town says. “It has nothing to do with efficiency.”
“Concepts like competence or fitness – these are deeply flawed concepts for many marginalized communities, including people with disabilities,” she added.
Dr. Kevin Sheth, MD, founding chair of the Division of Critical Care and Emergency Neurology at Yale University School of Medicine, says that just because Fetterman has speech difficulties, it doesn’t mean he has other cognitive problems. “If you have a blockage in the blood vessels that supply the part of the brain that plays a role in language, you’re going to have a problem with language,” Sheth says. “If it were the parts of your brain that control your strength and coordination in your extremities, you would be weak or paralyzed. The disability you have depends on which part of your brain is downstream where the blockage was in the blood supply.”
How does translation and explanation technology help him?
In his NBC interview, Fetterman blamed his challenges on “auditory processing issues” and noted that he struggled to understand what he was hearing shortly after his stroke, but that his ability to do so has improved since then. Fetterman said the caption helps him be precise.
Oz Campaign Manager I suggested Fetterman will not be able to use closed captions on the Senate floor. When asked by NBC if he would need similar arrangements in the Senate, Fetterman replied, “I don’t think it will have an effect. I feel like I’m getting better every day and by January, I’ll be a lot better and Dr. Oz is still a crook.”
Is stroke recovery for Fettermann typical?
“As we’ve said time and time again, John is in good health and also continues to have a problem with auditory processing that his doctors expect will go away,” Calvilo wrote in a statement Thursday. “The primary objective of this NBC News interview is to show how John did this campaign and give his interviews.”
Scientists and clinicians are still working to understand stroke recovery, which varies widely from patient to patient. Results can range from complete recovery to permanent disability, and many factors — such as physical therapy, rehabilitation, and lifestyle changes — can affect the process. But in general, recovery tends to follow a certain pattern. “If you draw a graph, I’ll draw one of those curves where you get a sharp rebound early on, and then over time, the slope can still be there, but it starts to flatten out,” Sheth says. “The recovery between month 14 and 15 may be very small, while the recovery period between two and four weeks may be much larger.”
When it comes to aphasia in particular, some Research It indicates that the bulk of the improvement occurs in the first trimester, although survivors can continue to see slow improvement for years.And the Just as they can with all the symptoms after a stroke. “If someone at five months of age has a certain amount of disability, it’s not as if that disability is going to go away next week,” Sheth says. “It will take some time.”
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