Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona on November 7, 1974 · Page 12
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Arizona Republic from Phoenix, Arizona · Page 12

Phoenix, Arizona
Issue Date:
Thursday, November 7, 1974
Page 12
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. REPUBLIC ' CITY C-8 The Arizona Republic 0 Thurs., Nov. 7, H74 Rare disease turns mountaineers blue Los Angeles Times Service DWARF, Ky. - Luke Combs, a man who lives in the mountains around Troublesome Creek, took his ailing wife to the University of Kentucky Hospital in Lexington in 1958. But it was Combs the doctors noticed. "Luke was just as blue as Lake Louise on a cool summer day," said Dr. Charles H. Behlen II, . one of t he physicians in attendance. ,We said to him, 'Luke, there's something going on here. Let's find out what it IS.' " It was organized medicine's first known brush with Appalachia's "blue people." It led to a comprehensive study of the rare genetic trait. A few of the "blue people" still live near Troublesome Creek and its tributaries in the isolated mountain hollows oi southeastern Kentucky. Doctors say members of the affected families Sometimes called "The Blue Fugates" or "The Blue Combses" have a rare hereditary blood disease called methemoglobinemia. '.The trait illustrates a a victim's coloring, but it is other relatives in the ex-harmless. : T h e train illustrates a wider Appalachian phenomenon: Genetic illnesses are apparently more common in the mountains, according to doctors, because of the intermarriage of first cousins and other realtives in the extreme isolation of the area in the 19th and early 20th centuries. .' Some of the hereditary illnesses and syndromes found in eastern 'Kentucky are much more serious than the coloring. They include: A lack of sweat glands, a birdlike face, lack of immunity to major diseases and blindness. . With the improvement of roads and other amenities, the Intermarriage seems to be declining, which could lead to a reduction in genetic illnesses. '. "But back in the old days there was no one to marry except your cousin who lived up the hollow," said a woman from the "Blue Filiate" family that lives on Ball Creek. ' Doctors have discovered many of the genetic illnesses only recently. They say there are probably other mountain families with genetic illnesses that have never been discovered" or studied by modern medicine. "It's a very fertile field for inquiry," said Dr. Claude H. Farley, a Kentucky medical scholar. "These people were treat- I ft (gAlPif ANY LIVING ROOM DINING ROOM (or dining and HALL CLEANED $0195 (Regardless t NOT llMlMIICilO LIVING ROOM & $fQ95 HALL 1 3 $11.11 . SINCE WKFW 1945 fP3M YES, WE DO DYE CARPETING RIGHT IN YOUR HOME and it is ready to use immediately. We will also TINT or COLORIZE your carpet while shampooing at slight additional charge. COLORS SO BRIGHT AND VIVID you 3 GUARANTEE 'WARRANTY JER than you have ed in the mountains as being either black people or as being hexed," Behlen said. "Some of the blue people wouldn't go farther than Dwarf to a store. Some of them said to us, 'We don't go to town; people think we look funny.' " Ruth Pendergrass, a Perry County health nurse, said she knew about the "blue" families as early as 1948. She said she asked doctors at the University of Kentucky to do studies to determine why they were blue. She said there was a rumor that the families had Negro ancestry. "I never believed that," she explained. "It's not a mountain custom for blacks and whites to intermarry. I was curious. I wanted to know what made them blue. "They weren't sick; it was just the way they look. They're normal people; they're good people." Many members of the "blue" families have com-, plexions that differ very little in color from those of other Caucasians, and family members who "show blue" vary widely in the amount of coloring. Zach "Big Man" Fugate reminisced about one of his relatives as he sat along Ball Creek recently. "My great uncle, John Fugate, he was right blue," he said. Another relative, he said, was "just as blue as you can get." Fugate said he doesn't "show blue" except in cold weather or when he takes a medicine for his blood circulation. The amount of coloring varies with physical condition and age. Carol Ann Fugate Sloane's husband said his wife "has a bluish complexion." He said her coloring was much more pronounced in the first five years of her life, when she was mistakenly diagnosed as a "blue baby." But the Fugate family trait is not related to the congenial heart or lung defects which cause people to be termed "blue babies." "These doctors just laugh at you when you tell them your family's marked. Doctors don't know about marks," said Lee Fugate. Carols' father. (Both of Carol Ann's parents come from Fugate families). Carol needlessly spent weeks in a hospital as an infant while doctors tried vainly to determine the heart condition they thought was making her ' blue. Carol Ann, a young teacher who lives near her parents on Clear Creek, said she still has to wear polish to hide her blue fingernails. $M!r1c,flu ANY LIVING ROOM AND HALL (Regardless of Room Size) Now 4 . . Advaneid techniques and chemical developments make possible superior results right in your home and at a price you can afford. Now you ean have your carpets cleaned professionally as often as you like. area) 938-5030 Df UGHT0?-DON'T PAY I STGAf.1 CLEANING will be astounded as thousands ot others have been! CARPET CLEANING PHOENIX, ARIZONA ... Our expert crews will titan ever seen before; or your mpney She said her lips and skin do not become bluish unless she is sick or tired. Her father said he was always able to tell if his daughter 'Is coming down sick or ill because her lips will turn blue." Rachel Ritchie Patrick, an elderly woman who lives near Dwarf In the little coal mining town of Hardburly, said she "shows blue" when she takes "some of these medicines, like aspirins." She and her sister, Rosa Ritchie Day, said their brother and other Ritchie relatives "show blue" when they are angry or have too much to drink. When a film crew arrived in Dwarf a while back to film a story on the unusual blood condition, Mrs. Patrick refused to be photographed. "I got enough to contend with; I don't want any television," she said. She said the blue condition has never bothered her: "I never paid it no mind." Dr. Madison Cawein, the senior author of the medical study on the "blue" families, said the color of several of the people he saw was similar to that of "an oxford cloth blue shirt." Family members describe the color variously as ' gun metal" or "blue as fish hooks" or "blue as indigo." But the coloring Is not always that noticeable. Farley tells about the film crew that arrived in the Troublesome Creek area. When they located one person who carried the trait, "the director looked at her and said, Rut she isn't blue enough.' Without a word, the crew Cows at prison may be inmates, auditor believes SALT LAKE CITY (LTD Can cows at the Utah State Prison be considered inmates? State Auditor David S. Monson notes a Utah law makes it illegal for products made by inmates to be sold in competition with private business. He said an audit of the prison uncovered the fact that milk produced at the dairy farm was being sold to commercial outlets. "There is a legal question here as to whether the milk is an inmate product. After all, the cows produced the milk. I guess what I'm really asking is whether cows are inmates," said Monson in asking the attorney general's office to clarify the situation. LIVING ROOM HALL aaamb winmu ROOM My aMrlltnil rain tll.llta, AND DYE CO. your carpeting BL it returned jty FUlL packed up, went back to Lexington, and flew off." The "Blue Fugate" traits have spawned storytelling and mountain mythmaking. "Big Man" Fugate said that he was told the blue originated because the family was Swedish. Lee Fugate ' says, ''My grandfather always said there was a blue race of people in Europe, but I've never read that in no history book." The "blue people" have had some problems that are more than cosmetic: Tom Combs and others were rejected for military service because Army doctors thought their color indicated a serious physical problem. "Big Man" Fugate said a cousin was the object of a flurry of tests when she was hospitalized with 8n illness. When she realized what the doctors were after, she told them, "If you're doctoring for that blue, you can stop now. I've had it all my life." The bluish complexion caused by methemoglobinemia can be readily treated by the drug "methylene blue," which Behelen describes as "a simple dye which causes a chemical reaction in the blood." Behlen said doctors gave methylene blue pills to people affected by the condition when they were studiyng the illness more than 10 years ago. They said some of the patients were "elated to be white for the first time." However, taking methylene blue, also turns a patient's urine blue. Behlen said doctors have explained to the "blue people" how the drug works and telling them they're getting rid of the blue with the urine. While not technically correct, the explanation seemed to satisfy the patients. shop daily 9-9 IIIIIMIIN MCMMtMMM MHII tUttHtttttttttttHtttttHtttttttf ttt"aa,,aai j CLUOEO.. Mitt 'SPICEMATES Condiments Tray A handsomo addition to your dinnor tab! (rom National Silver . . . and a great gift idea for lomeono West Bend 2 qt. Electric BEAN POT 788 r., I 9.S9 glazed ceramic pot heating unit base simmer-bakes beans 4 QUART Butter-Matic Watch it pop melt-in-your-mouth popcorn, butter it and shut off automatically. Flip it over and use cover as serving bowl. NO. 2546TA Phoenix is.LA..-io :.a... r. Very remarkably priced. 4 Sunday 9-6 Alt HUP Plant 199 reg. 6.99 6 qt' h v rrsi SLO- h COOKER i !i JjLJ 1788 rN I 0 afos "-V Versatile slo-cooker by West Bend slow cooks food for delicious flavor and saves energy, too ! 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