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Your Life: JAMES BOND MAKES ME FAINT... HEALTH STORIES so does watching Holby! Tessa Dollar loves going to the cinema but a rare condition means that the excitement can be all too much.

Byline: BY ADRIAN MONTI

MANY women can relate to swooning at the sight of Daniel Craig emerging from the sea wearing "those" trunks in the Bond film Casino Royale.

Butwhen32-year-old Tessa Dollar went to see the movie with her husband Mark, 33, she collapsed in a heap.

And it wasn't getting an eyeful of 007's rippling muscles that caused her to end up flat out on the floor of the cinema.

The mum of two from Whitchurch, Shropshire, has a rare form of vasovagal syncope - which means she faints frequently due to her heart not pumping enough blood to her brain.

This is complicated by her very low blood pressure.

Although her fainting fits can be caused by standing for long periods or not eating regularly, Tessa has pinpointed a more unusual trigger - blockbuster films.

"No one can explain why I faint while watching dramatic action," she says.

"I feel a build-up of tension and if there's lots of blood or loud bangs, I start feeling really nauseous.

"I know women swoon at Daniel Craig but I feel a bit ridiculous totally collapsing watching James Bond."

Tessa's fainting episodes began when she was five. "It became a way of life from as far back as I could remember," she says.

"No one was too worried, so I never saw doctors or had tests, and my mum assumed it was something I'd grow out of. But it kept happening - sometimes daily depending on what I was doing."

She soon learned to spot the early warning signs that she was about to faint -a throbbing head, feeling of nausea and an overwhelming desire to lie down.

Tessa says: "When I fainted, it wasn't like something out of a film where the actor slowly slithers to the floor.

"I'd go out like a light, crash to the floor and stay like that forupto30seconds."

She met her future husband Mark at university and they now have two sons, Fred, three, and one-year-old Hugo.

But after her second pregnancy, Tessa's fainting fits became more severe. After she almost passed out while driving, Tessa knew that she had to take action.

"I had to find out what was causing it as I couldn't risk this happening if I was on my own with the children," she says.

Her friend and osteopath Jason Gaskill urged her to get it checked out after she fainted in his reception room last October.

Tessa's GP referred her to a cardiologist who did tests and managed to induce a fainting episode. He then diagnosed vasovagal syncope with asystole.

This, combined with her low blood pressure, means that at times Tessa's body virtually shuts down, causing a fainting spell.

"To sort out the heart condition long term I'll probably need a pacemaker, but hopefully not for many years yet," says Tessa, who can live a virtually normal life providing she lies down whenever she feels faint.

"Lying down kick-starts my heart and allows my body to re-balance itself," she explains, "It's good knowing what I've been suffering with and why I've fainted thousands of times over the years."

However Tessa refuses to let her condition restrict her life.

As well as being a busy mum, she skis, rides has taken up long-distance running and did the London Marathon this year for the first time.

Despite her poor track record watching action films, she's still looking forward to seeing the new Bond film when it's released later this year. And this time, she'll do her best to make sure she sees it all.

Skiing

When Tessa and Mark first got to get her they went on a skiing holiday and tackled a dangerous ridge. But, while attached by ropes to the others for safety, Tessa got the tell-tale signs of a blackout.

"It was freezing cold and we'd been standing waiting for ages until it was safe to ski off," she recalls.

"I started to feel very woozy and began swaying. It was really dangerous - if I fainted I could fall down the ridge."

Unfortunately, when Tessa fell to her knees, the ski leader was far from sympathetic, presuming she had just lost her nerve. He told her she shouldn't have attempted the climb in the first place.

In front of friends

Once during a dinner party with some new friends, Tessa began feeling unwell.

"I had to ask if it was OK to lie on the floor in this couple's living room," she says. "I was so embarrassed and worried that they might think it was because I didn't like the food or something.

"The couple must have thought it strange that Mark was quite happy to sit at the table with them while I was sprawled out on the floor."

Formal occasions

One summer Tessa was attending an Army memorial event that Mark was taking part in. Even members of the Royal family were there to watch.

Suddenly, she started feeling faint. "It must have been a combination of the build-up to everything, standing up for too long and the heat," she says.

"I had to make my way out of the crowd and ended up sitting on the tarmac trying to compose myself.

"I must have looked a sight sat on the pavement in my smart clothes."

Watching television

Tessa discovered her dizzy spells could be brought on by watching films after seeing gory Quentin Tarantino flicks Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs.

"Everyone else seemed to love those films, but although I didn't realise it at the time all the blood, guts and guns shooting off everywhere were affecting me," explains Tessa.

She now rarely watches action dramas on TV as even Casualty and Holby City make her faint. Instead she sticks to programmes she knows won't cause undue stress - kids' shows.

WHAT IS VASOVAGAL SYNCOPE?

Nerves that control your heart rate and blood pressure are regulated through pressure sensors in arteries and veins called baroreceptors. These detect changes in blood pressure and send signals to bring it back to normal. With vasovagal syncope, the messages sent by baroreceptors fail to get through. So instead of bringing things back to normal your blood pressure and heart rate decreases, causing fainting.

TESSA RAN THE LONDON MARATHON IN AID OF THE BRITISH HEART FOUNDATION (FOR MORE INFO ON ITS EVENTS VISIT BHF.ORG.UK/EVENTS) TO DONATE, VISIT WWW.JUSTGIVING. COM/TESSADOLLAR

CAPTION(S):

OO NO! Bond (Daniel Craig) makes Tessa faint away; JUMP TO IT: Tessa on Horseback; OFF PISTE: A skiing trip with Mark; BUSY MUM: With her sons; CUDDLES: Tessa with Fred (left) and Hugo Picture's NEVILLE WILLIAMS
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Title Annotation:Features
Publication:The Mirror (London, England)
Date:Apr 18, 2008
Words:1099
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