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France's Sarkozy Collapses While Exercising, Undergoes Tests

By Edward Cody
Washington Post Foreign Service
Monday, July 27, 2009

PARIS, July 26 -- President Nicolas Sarkozy of France collapsed while jogging Sunday afternoon and was rushed to a military hospital for tests. His office described the incident as a minor fainting spell and said he never lost consciousness.

Sarkozy, 54, fell victim to what officials qualified as a "vasovagal episode" as he ran in 84-degree summer weather on the grounds of the Lanterne hunting lodge, a presidential retreat near the Versailles Palace west of Paris. He was flown by helicopter to Val de Grace military hospital in the capital, where he was said to be awake and talking with his doctors.

A vagal syncope, which involves the vagus nerve, is the most common form of fainting and is not considered life-threatening. It can be brought on by strenuous exercise in hot weather.

Sarkozy's office said that neurological tests administered at Val de Grace were normal but that the president would be hospitalized overnight for further monitoring of his heart.

"The president is completely conscious," Claude Gueant, secretary general of Sarkozy's staff at the Elysee Palace, told Le Parisien newspaper. "His illness did not last a long time."

Sarkozy, short and compact, has often been seen jogging, which along with cycling is his favorite form of exercise. He was photographed trotting in Central Park last weekend while in New York to watch his wife, Carla Bruni-Sarkozy, sing in a tribute to Nelson Mandela.

The Elysee Palace published a health bulletin early this month saying Sarkozy had undergone routine cardiovascular and other tests and was found to be in normal health. About six months after taking office in May 2007, Sarkozy was briefly hospitalized with a throat infection. That incident was not revealed at the time, despite a pledge from Sarkozy to keep the French public informed on his health. But it was reported in a book and later confirmed by his spokesmen.

Presidential health has long been a delicate subject in France. Presidents Georges Pompidou in the 1970s and Fran├žois Mitterrand in the 1990s concealed serious cancer problems for months, recognizing their illnesses only when they became obvious.

Staff writer David Brown in Washington contributed to this report.

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