Rep. Hank Johnson regains his health, puts on 40 pounds

Rep. Hank Johnson (D-Ga.) may be one of the few Americans this holiday season who is thrilled about gaining weight.

“I’ve put on 40 pounds!” the lawmaker exclaimed to ITK Thursday in the Speaker’s Lobby, “and I feel great!”

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The reason for the excitement is that Johnson, 56, has long suffered from hepatitis C, and he explained that his weight gain is the result of finishing an aggressive course of medication for his disease. 

“For almost two years, until just this past February, I was taking an experimental combination of medications that completely killed my appetite,” he said. “I didn’t have any energy, and about a year ago, I really felt my lowest.”

Johnson said the treatment was effective, and the virus is gone from his system. He started gaining weight as soon as he stopped the treatment, and he feels “110 percent” healthy now. 

The slender Georgia Democrat went on to say he was especially excited to visit his wife’s family in Nashville this Thanksgiving and dig into a feast that he could finally fully enjoy. “I’m so thankful for my health, I can’t even tell you.” 

But Johnson won’t spend his whole Thanksgiving munching on leftovers. On Sunday morning of the holiday weekend, he and some of his congressional colleagues will depart at 5 a.m. for a daylong trip to Haiti, where they will assess ongoing relief efforts in light of recent floods and an epidemic of cholera. 

Asked if he was concerned about his own health in light of the deadly cholera outbreak, Johnson shook his head. “I’ve got my health back now, and I’m sure we’ll be kept safe.”