justashell Posted April 6, 2007 Report Share Posted April 6, 2007 From The Idaho Statesman, April, 6, 2007: By Marilynn Marchione The most infamous feud in American folklore, the battle between the Hatfields and McCoys, may be partly explained by a rare, inherited disease that can lead to hair-trigger rage and violent outbursts. Dozens of McCoy descendants apparently have the disease, which causes high blood pressure, racing hearts, severe headaches and too much adrenaline and other "fight or flight" stress hormones. No one blames the whole feud on the condition, called von Hippel-Lindau disease, but doctors say it could help explain some of the clan's notorious behavior. "This condition can certainly make anybody short-tempered, and if they are prone because of their personality, it can add fuel to the fire," said Dr. Revi Mathew, a Vanderbilt University endocrinologist treating one of the family members. The Hatfield's and McCoys have a storied and deadly history dating to Civil War times. Their generations of fighting over land, timber rights and even a pit are the subject of dozens of books, songs and countless jokes. Unfortunately for Appalachia, the feud is one its greatest sources of fame. Several genetic experts have known about the disease plaguing some of the MCCoys for decades, but kept it secret. The Associated Press learned of it after several family members revealed their history to Vanderbilt doctors, who are trying to find more McCoy relatives to warm them of the risk. One doctor who had researched the family for decades called them the "McC kindred" in a 1998 medical journal article tracing the disease through four generations. "He said something about us never being able to get insurance" if the full family name was used, said Rita Reynolds, a Bristol, Tenn., woman with the disease. She says she is a McCoy descendant and has documents from the doctor showing his work on her family. She is speaking up now so distant relatives might realize their risk and get help before the condition proves fatal, as it did to many of her ancestors. Back then, "we didn't even know this existed," she said. "They just up and died." Von Hippel-Lindau disease, which afflicts many family members, can cause tumors in the eyes, ears, pancreas, kidney, brain and spine. Roughly three-fourths of the affected McCoys have pheochromocytomas---tumors of the adrenal gland. The small, bubbly-looking orange adrenal gland sits atop each kidney and makes adrenaline and substances called catecholamines. Too much can cause high blood pressure, pounding headaches, heart palpitations, facial flushing, nausea and vomiting. There is no cure for the disease, but removing the tumors before they turn cancerous can improve survival. Affected family members have long been know to be combative, even with their kin. Reynolds recalled her grandaterh, "Smallwood" McCoy. When he would come to visit, everyone would run and hide. They acted like they were scared to death of him. He had a really bad temper," she said. Her adopted daughter, another McCoy descendant, 11-year-old Winnter Reynolds, just had an adrenal tumor removed at Vanderbilt Children's Hospital. Teachers thought the girl had ADHD---attention deficit hyperactivity disorder. Now, Winnter says, "my parents are thinking it may be the tumor" that caused the behavior. "I've been feeling great since they took it out." Dr. Nuhet Atuk at the Universtiy of Virginia in Charlottesville and geneticists at the University of Pennsylvania studied the family for more than 30 years, Rita Reynolds said. "They went back on the genealogy and all of that stuff," she said. They called it madness disease. They said it had to be coming from the BHL. Our family would just go off, even on the doctors." Rita Reynolds had two adrenal tumors removed a few years ago. Her mother and three brothers also had them. So do McCoy descendants in Oregon, Michigan and Indiana, she said. When you have these tumors, you're easty to get upset," said Rita's mother, Goldie Hankins, 76, of Big Rock, Va., near the Kentucky-West Virginia border. "When people get on your nerves, you just can't take it. You get angry because your blood pressure was so high." The "feud" has taken a civil tone and all but disappeared, members of both families say. THe last time it surfaced was in January 2003. McCoy descendants sued Hatfield descendants over visitation rights to a small cemetery on an Apalachian hillside in eastern Kentucky. It holds the remains of six McCoys, some allegedly killed by the Hatfields. Link to comment Share on other sites More sharing options...
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