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  • First the world tilts. Then, in the fleeting moment of consciousness left to you, you wonder if your life is about to change. Or end.

    I am one of those people who are easily persuaded to go to the beach, even though I think lying on a towel in the sand ranks second only to scrapbooking in terms of utter boredom. So it only made sense on my second day of vacation on Oak Island, North Carolina, that I would want to visit a nature center.

    The building was closed, but we made our way up to the observation deck. I remember looking out over the water and moments later feeling a sudden whoooosh of dizziness. The next thing I knew I was flat on my back, with my wife calling out my name. I was out around 15-30 seconds.

    Quick inventory…Tailbone: aching (that’s where I made my undignified landing). Back of head: banged up from striking a wooden bench on the way down (thank God I’m Hungarian!). I was able to descend to the car under my own power, and we drove to an emergency room in a nearby town.

    A stress test came back positive. That was a bad moment. I thought my triple bypass might be failing. When they started talking about a heart catheterization I insisted on being transferred to Duke University Hospital (no offense, Southport). There ensued a bumpy three-hour ambulance ride in the middle of the night.

    Everything is an anti-climax from here, I’m afraid. I’d love to regale you with gory tales of hospital horror, but I have none. The staff at Duke knows its stuff and was unfailingly pleasant. I had numerous tests and all were negative (the stress test turned out to be a false positive). My heart is in great shape. The diagnosis was that I passed out from dehydration. I promised the doctors that I would drink a lot more. A portion of it would be water.

    I came away with no epiphanies from the experience, although I’m deeply grateful to be alive and home again. I was offered no stunning insights into the human condition. All I know is that now, when I beseech the heavens to make and keep me an upright man, my meaning is much more modest. Moral can wait; for now, vertical will suit me just fine.
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