When Johanna Watkins first met her husband Scott, the two grade school teachers from Minnesota felt a connection right away.
The couple tied the knot after dating for just two years, but didn't get the happy ending they had hoped for. In fact, four years later, Scott and Johanna can barely see each other, and haven't kissed each other in over a year.
But the couple haven't fallen out of love. The only thing keeping them apart is Johanna's rare medical condition - mast cell activation syndrome - which makes her allergic to almost everything.
When Scott first met Johanna she was already sensitive to certain foods, like gluten and dairy products. Over time, she started reacting severely to hundreds of things, from foods and fabrics to scents.
“Our life constantly feels like a crisis," Scott says about his bride's condition. "Johanna's immune system is just totally misfiring. It’s, at this point, irreversibly broken. She’s at the whims of her body. This is a killer disease and her form of it is insane.”
The young woman has been hospitalized multiple times for her allergy symptoms, which are comparable to the kind of severe reaction caused by a peanut allergy.
“Most people, when their throat starts to close in, they go to the emergency room," Scott explains.
"But Johanna’s throat is always tight, her body always hurts — that’s just her normal everyday life because these cells are identifying everything as a threat.”
And the worst part about Johanna's condition is that even Scott can trigger an allergic reaction, which has forced the couple to get creative in order to live together.
Scott and Johanna's home is neatly divided into two zones.
The top half is Scott's part of the house, while the lower level is a pressurized "safe space" where Johanna can live without fear of an allergic reaction. While Johanna hasn't been able to leave her pressurized bubble except for appointments, Scott does his best to make it bearable for her.
"She has the main floor of the house: dining room, living room, bedroom, bathroom and sun room," he said. "I wanted to give her the best part of the house because she never leaves, and when you’re stuck in one place for the foreseeable future, I want her to have a beautiful space."
While Scott and Johanna can only be together for about 15 minutes before she has a reaction, they still manage to connect through the bubble. They watch the same shows on separate TVs, and talk to each other using Skype.
But everything else about Johanna's life, including surviving on the 15 kinds of food that don't cause a deadly reaction for her, isn't easy.
Despite dropping to just 90 pounds and becoming too weak to walk, Scott holds out faith that his wife will overcome her disease.
“Psychologically, she’s the world’s healthiest woman. She’s the strongest woman I know. She has faith and hope and takes joy in what she can each day. I’m just immensely proud of her. She’s amazing.”
Our thoughts and prayers go out to this brave couple!