It is unusual that I get called upon to do emergency surgery but several weeks ago I did. It was on a Sunday afternoon that I received an urgent call from one of my patients who reported profuse bleeding from her umbilical artery. Here is her report:

“I have a defect in my navel, belly button if you prefer, that includes an area where the umbilical artery comes very close to the surface. Twice in the last 10 years, it has ruptured and I’ve had to be taken to the hospital to have it sutured. On Sunday, it happened again. I called Dr. Bloem, who came to my home, and with very gentle hands he was able to suture the defect closed again. His expertise and willingness to help, saved me a trip by ambulance to the hospital. I really appreciate the many ways that Dr. Bloem takes care of his patients.”

Initially, I was reluctant to get involved because the patient reported that the bleeding came from deep inside her umbilicus and that in the past the surgeons in the hospital complained about how difficult it was to gain access to the site of the bleeding and to place sutures. I advised the patient to keep firm pressure on her umbilicus and to call an ambulance. However, after a little while I decided to call the patient back because I knew that a trip to the hospital would be a major ordeal for her because of her disability. I packed my medical supplies and instruments and went to the patient’s home. Upon arrival at the patient’s bedside I noticed that the gauze pads that were used to stop the bleeding were soaked in blood and that there was a pool of blood next to the bed. As soon as the gauze pads were removed I saw the blood squirting out of the umbilical artery. This made it difficult to have a clear surgical field. Fortunately, within a short time I was able to place two sutures around the umbilical artery to stop the bleeding.

I am grateful for the successful outcome of this house call. And, yes, minor surgery, including laceration repair, is part of this holistic physician’s toolbox as well.

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