Have you ever wondered what it would be like to be married, but never able to be physically near your partner?
Twenty-nine-year-old Johanna Watkins used to suffer from allergic reactions, such as coughing, bizarre rashes, migraines and irritable bowel syndrome. However, she then started to suffer from anaphylactic symptoms whenever her husband was near her. She realised that this was a much deeper problem: ‘I was now reacting strongly to my husband. Before this I had reacted to my parents, to many, many other people, but it was horrific when it became Scott.’
Johanna was diagnosed with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS), a rare disease of the immune system. It means that she has severe allergic reactions to nearly everything and everyone. Her condition has become so bad that she cannot leave her room unless it is for an emergency or a doctor’s appointment. Her husband, Scott Watkins, cannot be in the same room with her, so his bedroom is on another level in their house. Her condition is so severe that nearly anything could trigger an anaphylactic shock and kill her. The only people she is not as allergic to are her siblings, who come and help Johanna’s husband cook dinner and visit her.
However, certain precautions need to be taken before they enter Johanna’s room. They are required to take a shower with special soap, have avoided eating spice for at least the last two hours, and be wearing special gear. Johanna is also highly allergic to the majority of foods; she can only eat 15 types of foods and only have two meals a day.
Even though Johanna and Scott face many challenges, their love and commitment to each other mean they continually provide mutual support. She says: ‘I can tell you that even if I have this until I’m 90 years old, I would be committed to my husband with that vow and still love him.’ And even though the couple cannot physically be near each other, they still find ways to communicate. For example, they watch the same TV shows from their laptops and message each other throughout.
Johanna is currently being treated with medication for MCAS; however, it has proven to be ineffective. No cure has yet been found, but she and her husband are not giving up and continuously fight to make the best of each day. For Scott, the best way he can help his wife is by staying away from her: ‘One of the ways I can take care of her now is by not going to see her. I’m not going to endanger her life. We’re absolutely committed to one another and we’re going to wait as long as it takes to see if there is some kind of healing.’
Sicknesses and diseases are rife in today’s society and people of all ages are being affected by them. That is why at the UCKG HelpCentre, we are committed to helping people live healthier and happier lives. Every Tuesday we have meetings for people who are experiencing pain in their bodies or suffering from an illness, or who know someone who struggles with their health. The meetings are free and open to all.
For more information, please call our 24hr helpline on 020 7686 6000 or visit your local branch.