Fatal attraction

Johanna and Scott WatkinsImage copyright
Scott Watkins

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Johanna and Scott Watkins pictured together before she became severely allergic to her husband

Twenty-nine-year-old Johanna Watkins from Minnesota cannot kiss her husband Scott, or even spend time in the same room as him. She suffers from Mast Cell Activation Syndrome, a rare disorder of the immune system, which means she is allergic to almost everything, including her husband’s scent.

Johanna and Scott Watkins’s date nights are very different from other couples.

“Scott and I will try to watch a show together. We can’t be in the room together, because I’m allergic to him, but he will be three floors below me in a room on his laptop and I will be on mine and we’ll watch the show at the same time and then text about it as we’re watching it,” says Johanna.

Johanna lives in an attic room all by herself with sealed windows and doors, and air filters to purify the air. She has a severe form of Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) in which the cells that are meant to protect her from outside threats mutate and start attacking her body instead.

Image copyright
Jen Jacobs Photography (Minneapolis, MN)

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On their wedding day the couple were unaware Johanna’s condition would become so severe

The symptoms and severity of the disease can vary from patient to patient, but it makes Johanna allergic to virtually everything and can trigger life-threatening anaphylactic shock.

Before she married her husband Scott in 2013 Johanna did not expect her condition to become so severe. She worked as a teacher and the couple used to love hiking together. Even then she struggled with unusual rashes, irritable bowel syndrome and migraines, but these ailments became much worse after the couple married.

“There were times three and four years ago, before we got the diagnosis, that if I was extra close to my wife, specifically if my face was close to Johanna’s face, she would cough,” says Scott.

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