Bill Bradford: Darlene’s engagement and disengagementPublished 11:01am Thursday, September 10, 2009
Darlene was a vivacious young woman in the small town in Maine where I served as the hospital’s clinical laboratory administrator.
Darlene’s father owned and operated the town’s hardware store.
My first notice of Darlene was when her urine specimen was submitted for a pregnancy test.
The test was positive.
In those days, being a single female and also pregnant was still considered not only inconvenient, but downright disgraceful.
And this was in one of the town’s most prominent families.
One of that summer’s tourists from New York was a charming young man and he and Darlene had spent much time together.
They were soon engaged to be married in the immediate future and making plans to live happily together forever after.
The State of Maine required that a blood test for syphilis antibodies be done on each of the parties to the marriage before a marriage license could be obtained.
Our hospital laboratory had been certified to do those premarital serology tests and that expedited the experience of local couples.
The specimens no longer needed to be mailed to the state laboratory in Augusta with the consequent delay in receiving back the results.
When Darlene and her man came in to the hospital for that routine testing, Darlene’s result was a commendable negative.
But her fiancé tested positive.
Although I am not privy to the turmoil resulting, the prospective marriage was canceled.
Darlene may have been treated with penicillin.
She was admitted to the hospital shortly thereafter with vaginal bleeding and underwent dilation and curettage surgery (D&C).
The World Health Organization estimated in 1996 that more than 1 million people were being infected daily with sexually transmitted infections.
The most common infective agents in order of prevalence are chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, Trichomonas vaginalis and herpes simplex virus.
These infective agents represent viruses, bacteria, spirochetes and parasites.
Many times I have seen the Trichomonas vaginalis parasite when doing a microscopic scan of a urine sediment.
It is about the size and appearance of a white blood cell, but with flagella that are whipped and cause it to jiggle.
There are literally dozens of different infective organisms which are transmitted sexually.
This reality is one of the reasons to avoid casual sex.
Prior to a commitment of intimacy, persons should be seen by a physician and the history, physical examination and laboratory testing should as far as possible exclude the presence of infective organisms.
Bill Bradford retired to the rigors of a small farm in Pokagon Township.
He has served as director of clinical laboratories in physician group practices and hospitals.
For a decade he was an educator in clinical laboratory sciences at Andrews University.