Allergic to everything
> Johanna Watkins has a rare condition that puts her at risk on contact with most things, including her own husband
JOHANNA WATKINS, 29, has lived in her bedroom for a year. As she’s allergic to dust, food and chemicals among many other things, her husband Scott built her a ‘safe zone’ in their home in Minnesota, the United States, where the windows are sealed, there’s no sunlight, and the room is wrapped in plastic.
What’s more, Johanna is also allergic to most human scents, including that of her husband.
Scott can’t hug his wife without hurting her, so lives in a different room downstairs.
Johanna suffers from mast cell activation syndrome (MCAS), and was finally correctly diagnosed after over 30 doctors failed to work out what the problem was.
Mast cells are a type of white blood cell which secrete chemicals into our bodies, controlling our immune system.
But Johanna’s mast cells don’t work as they should – they release chemicals at the wrong times and in the wrong places, wreaking havoc to her system.
The first case of MCAS was diagnosed just nine years ago, so relatively little is known about the condition.
However, it’s estimated that 1% to 15% of the population may be suffering from it.
For most people with MCAS, however, it’s quite mild and easily treatable. Johanna’s case, on the other hand, is so extreme she is yet to respond to any treatment.
All alone in her room, Johanna at least has technology to keep her from getting too lonely.
She spends her days chatting on the phone, over email and reading.
The only time Johanna leaves her bedroom is to visit the doctor, but when she does, it’s incredibly painful.
“As soon as that door opens, I can feel it,” Johanna told the local Fox 9 television station.
“My body goes into complete attack mode. It feels like my body is waging war on itself. My throat automatically tightens. It kind of feels like Darth Vader doing a choke hold.”
(left and right) Johanna with husband Scott … trying to live with MCAS. (below) The couple in happier times.