The Blue-Skinned Family from Kentucky

In 1820, Martin and Elizabeth Fugate moved to the small town of Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. This couple would go on to have seven children. Normally, the story of such an undistinguished family in such an isolated place would have passed into history unnoticed by the rest of the world. But something would happen that would make medical researchers interested in this family for generations: three of their children were born with blue skin.

The Fugates’ children had a genetic mutation called methemoglobinemia, which caused their blood to be unable to carry as much oxygen as normal blood. This lack of oxygen made their blood darker, which made their skin blue. This condition, though it gives its victims a startling appearance, did not cause any adverse health effects in the Fugates, though it has been known to cause seizures and developmental disabilities. The affected Fugate children went on to marry, have children, and live a normal lifespan.

ddydc3qiky-flywheel.netdna-ssl.com

The condition might have stopped with this first generation of Troublesome Creek Fugates had they not chosen to marry other family members. Because methemoglobinemia is a recessive disorder, both parents must carry it to pass it down to their children. The fact that Martin and Elizabeth were both carriers was an incredible coincidence. But when their son married his aunt and the other children married cousins, it greatly increased the chances that future generations would be born with blue skin. And this is exactly what happened, since the family lived in an area where few marriage partners outside the family could be found.

In the 1960s, Dr. Madison Cawein, a hematologist and researcher at the University of Kentucky, heard about the Blue Fugates. He desperately wanted to chance to study this rare condition, so he sought them out.

After spending some time with the blue members of the family, he decided that their blood was missing an enzyme. He then gave them injections of a dye called methylene blue in an attempt to trigger the blood’s processes. The effects were amazing, as the blue almost immediately faded from their skin, leaving them with a normal, pink color. Unfortunately, the effects of the dye did not last very long. However, Dr. Cawein prescribed them tablets of the dye that they could take every day.

As the area around Troublesome Creek became more populous, the Fugates began marrying more outside the family. As they did so, the number of Blue Fugates eventually decreased. The last one, Benjy Stacy, was born in 1975. Even so, his skin did not stay blue for long. It faded from his skin before he was one month old, but his lips and nails would occasionally turn purple if he got cold. Absent further inbreeding, it is possible that Benjy is truly the last of the Blue Fugates.

Next Article
ADVERTISEMENT
  • The unstoppable Iron Mike

    If you thought Iron Man was indestructible wait until you hear about Michael Malloy or Mike The Durable as his friends liked to call him. Malloy was a firefighter who lives in New York City during the 1920s but by 1933 he was homeless and had fallen deep into the clutches of alcoholism. You see...

    Read More
  • You Want To Live Forever? Start By Getting A Dog.

    Next time you find yourself screaming at your dog in anger because the young puppy chewed up your shoes, tore down your curtains or ruined your sofa, do keep this in mind: Buddy may actually be adding years on your life! In Sweden, researchers followed over 3 million people over the age of forty for...

    Read More
  • The Town That Respectfully Maintained The Grave Of A Toilet

    General George Smith Patton was a highly decorated senior officer of the United States Army, he is best known for commanding the U.S Third Army during the Allied liberation of Normandy in June 1944. His military exploits are well noted and documented, in fact, he is seen as one of the greatest war generals to...

    Read More
  • New Evidence Shows Menopause Treatment Not a Cancer Risk

    An exciting major new study has found that taking hormone replacement therapy to counter the symptoms of menopause does not increase a woman’s risk of early death. Researchers in the early 2000s discovered a link between women taking HRT for over five years and a higher risk of cancer. It even detailed how patients could...

    Read More
  • The Mysterious tale of Lucky Lord Lucan

    Some claim it to be one of the greatest mysteries of the 20th Century and when you dive into the story it really just begs the question - what in the world happened to Lucky Lord Lucan? On November 7, 1974, Lord Richard John Bingham the Seventh Earl of Lucan murdered his wife’s nanny by...

    Read More
  • A French Noblewoman Who Became a Ferocious Pirate Legend

    During the height of the Hundred Years War between England and France, one French noblewoman became feared throughout France for her ferocious never-ending appetite for revenge. Jeanne de Clisson with the help of the English outfitted three warships and caused havoc to any French ships crossing the English channel. Some may say privateer but at...

    Read More
  • The Native American Who Saved the Pilgrims

    Many of us are familiar with the Pilgrims and the first Thanksgiving, but have you heard of Squanto, the Patuxet Native American from Cape Cod Bay that saved the Pilgrims from disease and disaster? Squanto was a young man when, in 1614, he was abducted by Spanish conquistadors. He was forcefully taken by ship back...

    Read More