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Bush on fainting episode: 'Chew your food'

Bush appeared in front of reporters Monday with a bruise on his left cheek.
Bush appeared in front of reporters Monday with a bruise on his left cheek.  

EAST MOLINE, Illinois (CNN) -- President Bush -- scraped and bruised after a fainting spell -- extolled motherhood on Monday as another symbol of American patriotism, and gave the John Deere workers he addressed a lighthearted lesson to chew on.

"If my mother is listening, mother, I should have listened to you: Always chew your pretzels before you swallow," Bush said jokingly.

Bush lost consciousness for a brief time in the White House on Sunday evening while eating a pretzel and watching a professional football game on television. He fell from his couch and has a scrape and large bruise on his left cheekbone, plus a bruise on his lower lip, to show for his troubles. His glasses cut the side of his face.

Watch the animation of a vasovagal syncope, which could have caused the U.S. president to faint

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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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On the Scene: Sanjay Gupta: Fainting a common problem 

"I hit the deck," is how Bush described the mishap as he left the White House for his current two-day trip, which is focusing on economic issues during stops in Illinois, Missouri and Louisiana.

On the first leg of his trip, Bush received a John Deere jacket. He said when he heard he was going to get a gift, he thought he would be handed a pretzel -- the kind "that are easy to chew."

"When I work the rope lines, people bring their children. I always turn to the child, especially the teen-agers and say, 'Listen to your mother. It's the best advice I can give you.' I obviously needed to do the same thing last night. But I'm feeling great."

Bush was evaluated by a White House physician and cleared to travel Monday after all his vital signs were determined to be normal, White House press secretary Ari Fleischer said.

Dr. Richard Tubb, an Air Force physician, conducted the follow-up exam on the president. "Dr. Tubb checked all the vital signs and he told me all are normal and the president said he feels fine," Fleischer said.

Bush told the White House medical team Sunday he was watching the Baltimore-Miami NFL playoff game on the couch in his bedroom while eating pretzels, when he fainted. Bush said he believes he lost consciousness for only a few seconds at about 5:35 p.m., because when he opened his eyes, he said, his dogs were in the same location as his last memory from being seated on the couch.

However, he told a top aide, Karen Hughes, "they were looking at me a little funny."

Bush was initially examined by a White House nurse and then by Tubb on Sunday, and ran through a series of tests that included a cardiopulmonary workup, blood pressure and blood sugar levels.

Tubb told reporters Bush reported a pretzel "did not go down right" and the doctor said it was possible a pretzel had lodged against a nerve and momentarily caused a decrease in the president's heart rate, causing him to faint.

Baltimore won the playoff game 20-3.

-- CNN Senior White House Correspondent John King contributed to this report




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