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Bush faints at White House, quickly recovers

WASHINGTON (CNN) -- President Bush fainted for a brief time Sunday in the residence of the White House while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television, the White House said.

Bush's physician, Air Force Col. Richard Tubb, said the president blacked out and fell to the floor from a couch but appeared to have recovered quickly.

Bush will undergo a physical examination early Monday morning and plans to depart to the Midwest on a previously scheduled trip, White House spokesman Ari Fleischer said Sunday night.

The White House physician says the U.S. president quickly recovered from fainting after eating a pretzel. CNN's John King reports (January 13)

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"I do not find any reason that this would happen again," said Tubb. "He fainted due to a temporary decrease in heart rate brought on by swallowing a pretzel."

The doctor said it is possible that the pretzel stimulated the vagus nerve, which runs up the neck and regulates the heart rate. Its stimulation can cause the pulse to drop.

It's also possible a mild illness could have caused the episode, Fleischer said.

Contrary to an early report from a pool reporter, Tubb did not use the word "choke" in describing what happened, Fleischer said.

Bush was in a second-floor bedroom of the residence seated on a couch watching the Miami Dolphins-Baltimore Ravens game. About 5:35 p.m. EST, he was eating pretzels and "he had a feeling something didn't go down right," Fleischer said Bush told him.

The next thing the president recalled was opening his eyes on the floor, Fleischer said.

Bush has a bruise on his lower lip and a scrape on his left cheek bone about the size of a half-dollar, Fleischer said. He thinks his head either hit the floor or a table next to the couch, and that his glasses cut his face, Fleischer said.

Based on the fact that his dogs did not appear to have moved -- "except they were looking at him funny" -- Bush estimates he was unconscious for only a couple of seconds, Fleischer said.

As soon as he regained consciousness, Bush called the White House medical office and talked to a nurse on duty at the White House. She summoned Tubb, and they gave Bush an initial evaluation in the bedroom.

He then walked to the elevator and took it to the first floor where he underwent neurological, cardiopulmonary and other tests. His blood pressure, pulse, blood sugar and blood oxygenation were all checked, Fleischer said.

All tests were normal, and Bush is taking no medication, Fleischer said.

Bush told Fleischer he had not been feeling well and, in the president's words, "had a little bug."

Tubb urged his patient to go to bed early. After the event, Bush had soup and salad with his wife, who had been on the phone in a nearby room during her husband's blackout.

Bush's usually low pulse rate -- which doctors attribute to the fact that he exercises regularly -- could have increased his odds of fainting when the pretzel stimulated a nerve, Tubb said.




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