• AMPlus Issue7

The Blue Bloodline of Kentucky

Niharika V Murthy

19th October 2020

The Smurfs are a top-rated franchise based on a Belgian comic, which was later made into shows and movies. The franchise has global recognition and is famous for the blue-colored appearance of its characters. The blue-skinned characters in the film not only exist on-screen but existed off-screen as well. ‘Blue Fugates’ also known as ‘Blue People of Kentucky’, are identified carrying genetic traits that led to a disease called ‘methemoglobinemia’, resulting in blue-tinted skin discoloration in a human being.

The Fugates Family (Source: ausdoc.com.au)

The Fugates lived in Eastern Kentucky, six generations before time, with a French orphan named Marin Fugate, circa 1820. They settled in ‘Troublesome Creek’ in the hills of eastern Kentucky for decades together. Due to the lack of transportation facilities in rural eastern Kentucky, most Fugates married their bloodline and produced children. The Fugates family’s genetic traits passed down from generation to next until 1975.

Benjamin ‘Benjy’ Stacy was the last child born in the Fugates family, acquiring their traits. The incident left the doctors and nurses stunned and dumbstruck. Benjy was then rushed to the University of Kentucky Medical Centre to examine his body’s unique characteristics. According to ATI, the doctors found it laborious to recognize the factors in his body that resulted in dark blue-colored skin, which is not considered medically normal. ‘Blue People of Troublesome Creek’ is a detailed work published in 1982 by the University of Indiana’s Cathy Trost, who claimed Benjy’s skin to be ‘almost purple’, as reported by ABC news.

Methemoglobinemia is a disorder mainly related to the blood where a varying amount of methemoglobin, a form of hemoglobin, is produced by the body, according to the National Institutes for Health. Haemoglobin, the main component that is required to distribute the oxygen throughout our body, in this case, does not function accordingly.

The condition leads to purple lips’ skin color turning blue and ‘chocolate-colored’ blood in the patient's body, according to Dr Ayalew Tefferi, a hematologist from Minnesota’s Mayo Clinic. “You almost never see a patient with it today,” he said, as reported by ABC News. They tend to lack the necessary enzyme, which is responsible for converting methemoglobin into hemoglobin. This medical disorder certainly did not cause them physical harm but left them with a psychological abrasion.

(Sources: ABC News, ausdoc, History Collection, ATI)

Edited by: Keyuri

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