When Scott and Johanna Watkins met as teachers in 2011, they never expected their love would turn dangerous.
“I met my wife five years ago at Hope Academy. She was a first grade teacher and I was a second grade teacher, so it really was destiny,” the 28-year-old husband recalled to PEOPLE. “We noticed each other right away and I took way too long to ask her out.”
After they married in 2013, however, Johanna was diagnosed with a rare genetic disorder called Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. The genetic disorder causes her to develop life-threatening anaphylactic reactions to almost everything, including certain scents, foods, environmental factors, and chemicals and odors humans release. Which means she is also allergic to her husband.
“Johanna hasn’t left her room in a year except to go to the hospital,” Scott explained. “The only way we’ve kept her alive is through extreme precautions – her room has an airlock on it, multiple HEPA filters and her windows are covered because even UV light can cause her cells to trigger. It really is crazy.”
While the drastic living situation is extreme it is better than the alternative. When she comes into contact with an allergen it has the potential to kill her.
“It attacks my throat and my lungs and I start coughing and I can’t stop,” she explained. “Then my vision will completely blur and my throat will become tight like Darth Vader is doing a chokehold on me. My whole body goes into intense pain and I get migraines so badly that they actually leave bruises on my head.”0comments
With the help of friends and their community they are able to manage her health, but no treatments have helped so far.
“We have such a great community around us,” Scott said. “Our life is strained because Johanna is so sick but we’ve only been able to do as much as we can because of the sacrifices from our community.”