Hektoen International

A Journal of Medical Humanities

On blue and blues

Avi Ohry
Tel Aviv, Israel

As a child born with blue eyes, I wondered why I don’t see the world around me in a blue color. Later in life, as an amateur jazz drummer, I was passionate about the popular song “Blue Moon” (1934), Jobim’s “No More Blues”, and blue jeans. The blue color dominates our surroundings: the sea, the sky, the flowers, the bluebell hyacinth.

The Blue Bell by Emily Brontë
The Bluebell is the sweetest flower
That waves in summer air.
Its blossoms have the mightiest power
To soothe my spirit’s care.


Blue Roses by Rudyard Kipling
Roses red and roses white
Plucked I for my love’s delight.
She would none of all my posies—Bade me gather her blue roses

There is a blue bird, Sialia sialis. There are blueberry shrubs, the Blue Lotus (Nymphaea caerulea), the deep blues of Mississippi and the South, the cobalt painted in porcelain, and the “Blue Rider” painters’ movement in Germany. Knights in past days wore a blue ribbon; Bluebeard was the villain of Charles Perrault’s tale who secretly murdered several wives and hid their bodies in a locked room (1697).

The Blue Book was printed by the British Parliament. Kentucky bluegrass is a smooth-stalked meadow grass; the Blue Print paper sensitized by ferro-prussiate, the cyanotype process, was first introduced by John Herschel in 1842. The chemist and inventor Sir Humphry Davy went to the ruins of Titus’ baths in Rome, where he found several large lumps of a deep blue frit glass.

In medicine, the blue color appears everywhere; it is found in:

a wide range of malignant and benign melanocytic and nonmelanocytic lesions and in lesions that result from penetration of exogenous materials, such as radiation or amalgam tattoo or traumatic penetration of particles. Discriminating between different diagnostic entities that display blue color relies on careful patient examination and lesion assessment. Dermoscopically, the extent, distribution, and patterns created by blue color can help diagnose lesions and differentiate between benign and malignant entities.1

Methylene blue is used to treat methemoglobinemia at a dose of 1 to 2 mg/kg intravenously.2 We have the emergency code blue, the blue baby syndrome,3 and the blue sclera. Cyanosis means a bluish discoloration of the skin or mucous membrane in congenital and acquired lung disease. Indigo is abeautiful blend of blue and violet, a hue that radiates power and charm.

“Indigo” by Ellen Bass
As I’m walking on West Cliff Drive, a man runs
toward me pushing one of those jogging strollers
with shock absorbers so the baby can keep sleeping,
which this baby is. I can just get a glimpse
of its almost translucent eyelids. The father is young,
a jungle of indigo and carnelian tattooed
from knuckle to jaw, leafy vines and blossoms,
saints and symbols. …


  1. Longo C et al. Blue lesions. Dermatol Clin. 2013;31(4):637-47, ix. 
  2. Clifton J 2nd, Leikin JB. Methylene blue. Am J Ther. 2003;10(4):289-91.
  3. Brown R. The blue baby. Nurs Times. 1977;73(41):1596-7.

AVI OHRY, MD, is married with two daughters. He is Emeritus Professor of Rehabilitation Medicine at Tel Aviv University, the former director of Rehabilitation Medicine at Reuth Medical and Rehabilitation Center in Tel Aviv, and a member of The Lancet‘s Commission on Medicine & the Holocaust. He conducts award-winning research in neurological rehabilitation, bioethics, medical humanities and history, and on long-term effects of disability and captivity. He plays the drums with three jazz bands.

Spring 2024



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