Many people have to deal with different allergies, especially allergies such as gluten intolerance which has had a huge upsurge in the last decade or two. These allergies can range from annoying to deadly, depending on how badly they affect the person. Fortunately, all it takes is avoiding these triggers.
Now imagine if the list of things you were allergic to grew and grew until you had to fear going outside. Imagine if it wasn't just ingesting that would trigger you, but also the mere smell, or the simple presence of heat That's what people with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome (MCAS) suffer from.
15-year-old Martina Baker is someone who was diagnosed with MCAS as a teenager, ruining friendships, and making even something as simple as cooking or cleaning a deadly experience. Luckily she's found a guardian angel in her dog Caiomhe who can sniff out threats before they get her. Here is their story.
Mast Cell Activation Syndrome is an extremely rare condition that makes the victim allergic to "almost everything." That includes odors, heat, cleaning products, cologne/perfumes, and even heat. That's right. If it gets hot, such as putting the heater on during the winter, that would affect someone with Mast Cell Activation Syndrome. People will MCAS will go into anaphylactic shock, which can be deadly if not treated very quickly.
It all started two and a half years ago when Martina was enjoying her life as a healthy teenager until the symptoms began to show. Martina described it as, "I wasn't allergic to anything before, then one day I woke up with hives all over my body. I had to go to the hospital because I had an anaphylactic reaction. My throat started swelling up with hives. They treated me with an EpiPen."
As you can imagine, Martina was no longer able to enjoy life as a normal teenager following her bout with MCAS. Something as simple as going out to a movie theater would be completely impossible, and with Martina regularly breaking out into hives and anaphylactic shock, something would have to be done. Martina's family raised over ten thousand dollars to be partnered with Caiomhe, a dog highly trained in odor detection.
Caiomhe is trained by Jamie Robinson, a specialist who is one of the only people who trains dogs to detect odors for MCAS patients. Robinson describes it as, "A dog's nose is about 100,000 times better than a human nose and just about every biochemical process in our bodies is indicated with a change in scent." Caiomhe can even detect Martina's histamines building up in Martina's body before she can.
Ever since teaming up with Caiomhe, Martina's world has opened up once again. She was able to go to a movie theater without an issue. A mixture of Caiomhe's help and mast cell stabilizing drugs, Martina hasn't suffered anaphylactic shock as often as before. It used to be three times a week. Now it's once every four to six weeks. It's been tough for Martina. As she describes it, "I lost a lot of friends after I developed MCAS. It's hard for people to handle, for them to watch me collapse and have to take my EpiPen and be rushed to hospital all the time."
Martina's mother has seen the positive impact Caiomhe has had on her daughter. "I feel that Caiomhe was destined to be my daughter's guardian angel. In the pictures of Martina now with Caiomhe, I see joy, light and life. A spark that has been missing and robbed from her since this awful disease has."