The Blue Fugates

Troublesome creek in the state of Kentucky, U.S.A was not famous for any trouble as the name suggests, but for an odd family that lived in this wilderness. Troublesome Creek is known worldwide for the Fugates family that dwelt there. The Fugates were known as the ‘blue people’ and were an oddity because they were blue.

Methemoglobinemia is a rare disorder where methemoglobin is present in the blood in high levels. Methemoglobin is the oxidized form of Hemoglobin and reduces the production of oxygen. The presence of this element in the red blood cells in concentrated amounts leads to tissue hypoxia and giving a purplish and bluish tome to the skin. The Fugates had the recessive gene of this very element in their blood and thus were an odd tint of blue.

Martin Fugate, a French orphan and immigrant to Kentucky, was said to be the carrier of Methemoglobinemia. It is said that by some coincidence, he met his wife Elizabeth, who too was said to be very pale and carry this gene as well. Together they had seven kids, out of which four were blue. The ‘Blue people’ of Kentucky quickly rose in their population. They would marry their cousins and soon inbreeding led to formation of a closed community in the Troublesome Creek. It wasn’t odd for the citizens of Kentucky to see an extremely blue person now and again on the road. However since the gene was repressive, this population of blue people soon started to dwindle. Yet even know the descendants of the blue people are born with hypoxia, which turns normal in a few days. It is seen that even though these kids turn a healthy shade of complexion, during extreme cold or anger, their nails and lips turn blue or purple.

Many scientists and researchers came from far to study the Furgates’ genes and were at loss to explain their unique skin color. It is Madison Cawein, a hematologist who found out the exact disorder. He is known to give the blue people, Metheglobin Blue injection, which turned them pink almost immediately. But its effects did not stay long enough as it used to come out with the urine. Today, the descendants of the Fugates, when researched, do not show any signs of Methemoglobinemia. However the blue-ness of the nails still remains as the last sign of the blue people of Kentucky.