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There was always speculation in the hollows about what made the blue people blue: heart disease, a lung disorder, the possibility proposed by one old-timer that "their blood is just a little closer to their skin." But no one knew for sure, and doctors rarely paid visits to the remote creekside settlements where most of the "blue Fugates " lived until well into the 1950s. By the time a young hematologist from the University of Kentucky came down to Troublesome Creek in the 1960s to cure the blue people, Martin Fugate's descendants had multiplied their recessive genes all over the Cumberland Plateau.
Methemoglobinemia, also known as "met-Hb", is a disorder characterized by the presence of a higher than normal level of methemoglobin in the blood. Methemoglobin is a form of hemoglobin that does not bind oxygen. When its concentration is elevated in red blood cells a functional anemia and tissue hypoxia may occur. Normally methemoglobin levels are
Six generations after a French orphan named Martin Fugate settled on the banks of eastern Kentucky's Troublesome Creek with his redheaded American bride, his great-great-great great grandson was born in a modern hospital not far from where the creek still runs.
The boy inherited his father's lankiness and his mother's slightly nasal way of speaking.
What he got from Martin Fugate was dark blue skin. "It was almost purple," his father recalls.
Doctors were so astonished by the color of Benjamin "Benjy" Stacy's skin that they raced him by ambulance from the maternity ward in the hospital near Hazard to a medical clinic in Lexington. Two days of tests produced no explanation for skin the color of a bruised plum.
A transfusion was being prepared when Benjamin's grandmother spoke up. "Have you ever heard of the blue Fugates of Troublesome Creek?" she asked the doctors.
"My grandmother Luna on my dad's side was a blue Fugate. It was real bad in her," Alva Stacy, the boy's father, explained. "The doctors finally came to the conclusion that Benjamin's color was due to blood inherited from generations back."
Libertarian U.S. Senate candidate Stan Jones, speaks Sept. 23, 2002, during a debate at the Great Falls Civic Center in Great Falls, Mont. Jones has a distinct blue-gray skin color, the result of taking too much of an anti-bacterial form of pure silver. Jones said he started taking colloidal silver in 1999 in preparation for what he feared might be Y2K disruptions that could lead to a shortage of antibiotics.