Who really has the Gonorrhea?

While I have been blessed with one of the best medical assistants around for over twenty years, even the best are human and make mistakes. Case in point: A few years ago, I had two identical twin teenagers in my practice—Marcy and Darcy. Marcy came in to see me with symptoms suggestive of a possibly sexually transmitted disease, so I cultured her.  Darcy was vaccinated the same day with her third HPV vaccine. A few days later, Marcy's culture came back positive for gonorrhea. We are required, by law, to report gonorrhea to the Public Health Department so they can track down all sexual contacts. When Marcy’s test came back positive, we couldn’t get her to call us back when we left a subtle phone message to call. Thus, my medical assistant decided she needed to "up the ante" and get Marcy’s attention so that she’d come in for treatment. Thus, my medical assistant called the cellphone number listed in Marcy’s chart, but when she left the message, she accidentally used the sister’s name, Darcy, instead of the patient’s name, Marcy.

When Marcy listened to the message on her cellphone stating that Darcy had gonorrhea, instead of calling the office to clarify, Marcy TEXTED her sister the following message: “You have gonorrhea. You and Ryan need to get to Dr. Burbank’s office for treatment. Now.”

Needless to say, Darcy was upset to receive the news in such a tacky, unprofessional manner and things spiraled down. Darcy texted her boyfriend, Ryan, and raked him over the coals for cheating on her. Since she’d only had one boyfriend in her life, that meant he’d cheated on her and transmitted gonorrhea to her, right? Ryan insisted he’d never cheated, but she didn’t believe him and broke up with him.

Darcy then called our office and was curious how we’d made the diagnosis of gonorrhea on her anyhow, since she’d only come in for her Gardasil vaccine injection. “Can you get gonorrhea from a vaccine? My boyfriend, Ryan, swears he never cheated on me.”

About this time, my medical assistant scratched her head trying to figure out why Darcy thought she had gonorrhea when her sister was the one who had the infection! And no, Darcy, you cannot get gonorrhea from a vaccine!

Once we figured out what had happened, we called Marcy and told her she and her boyfriend were the ones who needed treatment, not Darcy and Ryan. Amazingly, Marcy wanted to delay coming in for treatment until she had slept with her boyfriend and transmitted the disease to him first! Why? It turns out, she did not show symptoms of gonorrhea until she’d had a one-night stand and cheated on her regular boyfriend. Since she hadn’t had sex with her boyfriend since cheating on him, she knew if the Health Department tested him right now or if she was treated before they had sex, he would test negative and then he’d find out she’d cheated on him and obtained the infection from another guy. She wanted him to test positive so she could blame her infection on some old girlfriend of his that ended up inflicting him and then her!

Had someone transported me to Peyton's Place? This was getting seedier by the minute!

Obviously, I told her to get her gonorrhea-infected body into my office now! The whole mess reminded me of my favorite Shakespeare quote:  “Oh, what a tangled web we weave, when first we practice to deceive.”