The Fugates family are bluer than Lake Louise. The weird story of the Fugates family involves a mix of genetics and geography, creating the perfect storm to develop avatar-like blue people. The story begins six generations past the Fugate bloodline with Martin Fugate, a French orphan.
Fortunately, not many cases of blue-skinned people are there today because mountain people are no longer present, and the gene pool is a lot more diverse than back in the 1800s when the Fugate family of Kentucky existed. What causes blue skin disorder? Where are the blue-skinned people of Kentucky now? Get answers to these questions and more.
The Blue Fugates of Kentucky
Martin Fugate and Elizabeth settled in Troublesome Creek, Kentucky. It was such a shock to the couple when four of their seven kids were born blue. First of all, it was rare to be a carrier of the recessive met-H gene that causes methemoglobinemia but even rarer that two carriers found each other and got married. Anyway, neither of the two had an explanation for this, and since they lived in a very remote place in the 1800s, they were isolated and could not get help from any scientists.
What does being blue-skinned mean?
Being blue is a result of methemoglobinemia, a condition that causes the methemoglobin levels in the red blood cells to rise higher than 1 per cent. This, in turn, makes the skin and lips blue and turns the blood into a chocolate brown colour. It may be unnoticeable at first, but it is triggered when the carrier is exposed to certain chemicals.
However, for the Fugates, an inherited faulty gene resulted in an enzyme deficiency. Fortunately for them, the condition only affects the colour of the skin and has no adverse health side effects; in fact, most of them lived into their late 80's and 90s.
Making the problem worse, the Fugates were excluded from the community because of their unique ailment. They ended up marrying within their family, thus increasing the chances of passing the gene down to their family members.
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For example, Zachariah, Martin and Elizabeth's son, married Elizabeth's sister. As a result, the gene was not present in both of them. However, their kids married their younger siblings and some of their cousins, resulting in the gene being passed down.
Several of the families that lived close by ended up not getting married into the Fugates family because they feared that their children would be born blue. As a result, they were ostracized and continued marrying each other.
How was methemoglobinemia discovered?
In the 1960s, Dr Madison Cawein had heard about the blue-skinned people living in Kentucky through the grapevine. So he got a nurse, Ruth Pendergrass, to accompany him to find the Fugates. Ruth knew about blue-skinned people because one of them had visited her at the hospital she worked in.
They found Patrick and Rachel Ritchie, part of the Fugate clan, and both had the blue skin condition. The doctor recalls that the couple was highly embarrassed about being blue.
They performed tests to prove that they did not have heart disease; after this, they drew up a family tree. Next, the doctor suspected methemoglobinemia, but they had no idea what was its cause. Finally, after several tests, the doctor found out the reason for the blue skin, the absence of the enzyme diaphorase.
How is the ailment cured?
The doctor injected them with methylene blue, which worked as both medicine and dye to turn the blue skin pink, temporarily, because methylene blue comes out of the body with urine. He left the Fugates with a large number of tablets to take daily. This meant that the Fugates were no longer blue and could carry on with their lives normally.
Where are the Blue skinned people of Kentucky now?
As time went by, some of the Fugates moved out of Kentucky while others got married outside the family, mixing genes and thus reducing the likelihood of having more blue children. The most recent case was in 1975, but the carrier only had one gene and has since grown out of it.
The story of the blue-skinned people of Kentucky is a fascinating one. It is very hard to believe as well since they do not exist at the moment and there are no actual Blue Fugates of Kentucky pictures, only colourised images.
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Source: Briefly News