- Johanna Watkins, 29, has been living in a sealed bedroom for the past year because she suffers from mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
- She is allergic to her husband, Scott, who built her a safe space for her condition
- He built a pressurized house with heated furniture to help keep allergens out
- Watkins fainted upon entering the new house because of the new paint smell
- Scott said his wife is weak, but is slowly gaining a tolerance to the new place
A Minnesota woman who is allergic to her husband fainted as she walked into the new home he spent more than a year building for her.
Johanna Watkins, 29, had been living alone in a sealed master bedroom after she was diagnosed with mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), a condition that causes her have an allergic reaction to almost everything.
Her husband Scott, whom she is allergic to, has not had contact with her unless he's had to take her to doctor's appointments or emergency room visits.
Joanna Watkins, 29, (pictured with her husband Scott in 2012) suffers from a severe immunological condition called cell activation syndrome (MCAS)
Joanna is allergic to almost everything, including her husband, who spent more than a year renovating a 'safe space' for her
The supportive husband and school teacher spent more than a year renovating a home in Minneapolis intended to be a safe space for Johanna. But upon entering the house, she fainted from the scent of the new home, Scott said in a post on the charity site, CaringBridge.
'The smell of her space triggered her and she lost consciousness. This was not the picture perfect moment (despite the TV cameras outside) we were waiting for. This was life or death,' he said.
The 29-year-old regained consciousness shortly after and was bathed by her two brothers, the only people to whom she is not allergic.
Scott's immense effort into safe-proofing the house, after raising more than $125,000 on their Gofundme page for his wife involved building a positive-pressure system to keep out any scents, new furniture which is heated to mask allergens, and keeping the home dark since she is allergic to sunlight, Fox 9 reported.
The supportive husband spent more than a year renovating a house intended to be a safe space for Johanna, but she fainted upon entering the new home because of the scent
Scott built the house with a positive pressure system to keep out allergens or scents
The husband and school teacher said the smell of the new paints and plumbing caused her to pass out
Johanna's reaction has left her too weak to stand, but Scott said she is slowly developing a tolerance to her new home.
'Her bathroom makes her very sick. It has the worst smell because of the updated plumbing,' he said in the post. The smell is apparently so strong, Johanna's bedroom has become inhospitable.
Scott said the smell is indistinguishable to the average person, but to his wife, it is so potent and makes her very ill. She has been sleeping in a loveseat, as he sleeps in a room upstairs, away from her.
The only way that Johanna was able to communicate with her loved ones is from her room via Skype (pictured in 2016)
Before moving into the new home, Joanna was confined to a bedroom where the sunlight had to be blocked
MAST CELL ACTIVATION SYNDROME
Mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS) is an immunological condition which can cause severe and chronic reactions.
Mast cells dictate how the immune system should react to perceived threats.
But MCAS sufferers have mutated or abnormal mast cells which are 'hyperresponsive' and so perceive harmless, everyday things as potential triggers.
While cases can range from mild to severe, the use of antihistamines and mast cell membrane-stabilizing drugs is often effective.
Common triggers for sufferers include stress, temperature extremes, airborne smells, hormonal changes and specific food and drinks.
MCAS may be mild until exacerbated by stressful life events, or can become progressively worse over time.
The condition was only discovered a decade ago and needs more research into its causes and treatment but the condition appears to be inherited.
Doctors believe that between 1-15 per cent of the population could be affected.
Johanna was misdiagnosed 30 times before doctors realized she had mast cell activation syndrome, Fox 9 said.
The rare disease causes the cells, which are responsible for releasing chemicals that tell the body's immune system how to react, to attack at the wrong time.
The couple married in July 2013, before Johanna was diagnosed. But her extreme condition means that Scott cannot get near his wife without fear of triggering a reaction.
Her meals have to be pushed under the door while most of their communication during the past year has been done via Skype.
Scott is only able to get close to her when he needs to take her to the hospital. Both wearing masks, Scott rushes into her room, carries her to the car and drives to the hospital. By time time they arrive home, Johanna is exhausted and in pain.
Before moving into the new home, she lived with their neighbors Dan and Lucy Olson, and their four children. Johanna had been staying in the family's master bedroom, Dan and Lucy share a small bedroom, while their four kids all share another.
Her allergy is so severe, she has been eating the same few meals every day for a year as she reacts to everything but a few basic dishes; ground lamb, chuck roast, cucumbers and carrots. The only liquid she can drink is water.
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