19. Blue Baby
What would you do if you had a baby, but it came out and its skin was blue? You’d most likely be alarmed, and hopefully, you’d love the baby regardless. Nevertheless, it would be rather scary because, for most people, the idea has never crossed their minds. But for the Fugate family, it’s something that was quite common…
The Fugate family of Kentucky has kept to themselves for the last 200 years, due to their genetic disorder which gave them blue skin. In 1975 Benjamin “Benjy” Stacy was born in Hazard, Kentucky. He was a special child, as he came out a bright blue color. Nurses were so afraid for the child that they rushed him to a hospital nearly 120 miles away…
17. Great-Grandmother Luna
The child’s skin color was so shocking that doctors remember saying “as Blue as Lake Louise”, according to ABC News. In a panic, doctors readied a blood transfusion, as they assumed his blood was tainted, giving him the abnormal hue. However, this was no shock to the family, as his great-grandmother was known to relatives as “blue all over” and the “bluest woman I ever saw”.
16. The French Orphan
The Fugate family story goes back six generations, to the French orphan who immigrated to eastern Kentucky, Martin Fugate. Martin went on to marry Elizabeth Smith, who also carried the gene for the same blue hue. The two had seven children together, four of which had the bright blue skin. Due to the small and isolated town in which they lived, the family often married cousins, and other local families by the names of Combs, Smith, Ritchie and Stacy.
The family had been isolated in the mountain region for so long, that their genetic condition, which is called Methemoglobinemia, was able to survive due to intermarriage. The disorder which causes the blood to have too much methemoglobin is passed down through a recessive gene.
14. Family Tree
One of Martin and Elizabeth’s sons, Zachariah, actually married his mother’s sister. Their other son, Levy, married a girl from a neighboring family, the Ritchies. Levy and his wife had eight children, one of them being Luna, Benjy’s great-grandmother. The image shows how recessive genes get passed through lineage.
When the blood has too much methemoglobin (a type of hemoglobin) it is unable to deliver enough oxygen to the body, causing the patient’s extremities and flesh to appear blue. The blood itself is not blue, but rather a dark brown color due to its lack of oxygen. The disorder can be either inherited or triggered due to food and environmental exposure.
The Fugate family had the type which is inherited, and doctors believe they most likely had a deficiency in the enzyme called cytochrome-b5 methemoglobin reductase. Most people have about 1% of methemoglobin, but the Fugate family had a range anywhere from 10-20%. At levels above 20%, patients would suffer from seizures, heart problems, and even death.
11. Dr. Cawein
But some of the Fugate family began to feel self-conscious about their blue skin tone, carrying shame wherever they went. Some of the family had shame not only because they felt too different from others but because their skin tone became associated with inbreeding. Dr Cawein, a local physician, went out looking for the interestingly blue family, after seeing a relative in a nearby hospital.
10. On The Search
Cawein went on to search for the family in the mountains and took a nurse by the name of Ruth Pendergrass from nearby Hazard with him. He went on to map out a family tree and went in search of them for their blood samples. He wanted to know more about their blue hue and was determined to figure out the cause.
9. Pendergrass’ Shock
Pendergrass told writers how she remembers seeing the family member that led them to the rest,”Her face and her fingernails were almost indigo blue. It like scared me to death. She looked like she was having a heart attack”. We can only assume the terror that went through her mind. She told ABC News that, “I just knew that patient was going to die right there in the health department, but she wasn’t at all alarmed. She told me that her family was the blue Combses who lived up on Ball Creek. She was a sister to one of the Fugate women”. One thing is for sure, whether the Fugate family wanted to be known or not, whoever saw their rich blue hue never forgot them.
8. Remembering The Family
Dr. Cawein remembers how embarrassed the family seemed,“Patrick was all hunched down in the hall. Rachel was leaning against the wall. They wouldn’t come into the waiting room. You could tell how much it bothered them to be blue”, according to ABC News. Soon, the doctor was able to identify the blood disorder that the family carried.
Cawein was able to diagnose the family by using research from isolated Alaskan Eskimo tribes and came to the conclusion that it was hereditary. The cure he devised was not logical, nor did the family understand how it was going to work. He decided that the only way to cure the disease was to add more of what the Fugates had too much of– blueness.
6. The Cure
Cawein figured the best way to trick the body into turning methemoglobin into hemoglobin was to add methylene blue dye. Like a miracle, within minutes of ingesting the blue dye, the Fugates skin had turned a normal shade of pink. The only catch: they had to regularly take the dye pills.
5. Special Benjy
Benjy is a unique Fugate, because although he was born blue, within the first few years of his life there was no sign of the blue hue. Due to the fact that his blue hue had faded, doctors assumed the young boy only had one copy of the mutated gene, rather than two. What they do know, is that the gene was inherited from his father’s grandmother, Luna.
4. Rumor Has It
Many local nurses passed on their amazement of the Fugate family, remembering Luna and her unique skin tone,“ Luna was bluish all over. Her lips were as dark as a bruise. She was as blue a woman as I ever saw”. This family’s unique situation is something many never thought possible, while most medical professionals have only ever read about it in textbooks…
3. Long And Healthy Lives
Most interestingly, the Fugate family members that had inherited the disease all lived into their 80’s and 90’s and never experienced any medical difficulties. Benjy’s grandmother told the tales of the “Have you ever heard of the blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek” and how the family experienced their trademark blue skin color.
Cathy Trost wrote detailed information about the family’s rare genetic condition called “The Blue People of Troublesome Creek”. It’s said that you could only see the blue hue when Benjy got angry or cold. Benjy now lives in Alaska, with his wife.
1. Papa Smurf
A photo that has circulated the web connected to the Fugate family is the one pictured above. However, this man is not related to the Fugate family but rather turned blue after taking a substance derived from silver. Paul Karason discovered that gradually, after ingesting the silver substance for more than 10 years to treat a skin condition, his skin turned blue. The condition is called argyria.