Imagine what life would be like if you spent all your time inside your home day-in, day-out and you couldn't entertain any thought of leaving because it may trigger a potentially-deadly reaction. That's what one Minnesota mother lives year-round.
For all intents and purposes, the Fadling house is under quarantine because Elizabeth Fadling has a rare disease that affects her mast cells, which contain the histamine to regulate allergic reactions.
"I would love to have visitors but I can't literally put my life in danger," said Elizabeth Fadling.
Instead, visitors are kindly advised to keep their distance and Elizabeth Fadling rarely steps outside. When she does, it's usually because there's an emergency and her life depends on it.
"The reactions can happen so fast," she said.
Fadling says her terrifying attacks usually start with coughing and vomiting, leaving her struggling for air as though her throat is being squeezed in a vice. Even so, she shivers at the thought of going to emergency room for help because she fears it'll only make her condition worse.
"There are many triggers at the hospital," Fadling told FOX 9 News. "I'm afraid to go there because there are too many things for me to react to."
Fadlings body even reacts to the tools others often use to help them heal, like a Band-Aid. Even checking her oxygen levels with standard, non-allergenic plastic devices can be risky. Doctors must cover her fingers with cloth to avoid skin contact that would prompt her to break out and swell.
"So, I'm sitting here terrified and not feeling very well," explained Fadling.
The Fadlings keep a suitcase at the ready. It's packed with things to protect her from the dangers of the outside world, along with sheets she can use, a hospital gown and special soap.
For 30 years, Fadling's life was cruising along. In 2000, she was a finalist in the Miss Minnesota pageant. She fell in love, got married and gave birth to a spitfire of a little girl -- but three years ago, everything changed.
That's when Fadling began having allergic reactions to all kinds of smells and substances.
"We have this gas fireplace, but we can't use it because I'm allergic to the gas odor," she said.
Many conveniences most people take for granted are banned from the home, from dish soap to fabric softener -- even deodorant.
"It causes itching and swelling and redness, just like all of us when we get poison ivy or hay fever," explained Dr. Clint MacKinney. "We get those kinds of symptoms, but Elizabeth gets it much worse and it can even be life-threatening to her."
She's even allergic to Benadryl, a common drug used to treat allergic reactions. Instead, the family has a epi-pens stored all over the house.
Fadling's sensitivities means no one is allowed in the house unless they have bathed with unscented soap and are wearing clothes washed with special detergents. Otherwise, her husband, Chris, would likely have to call in sick to work and spend hours in the emergency room with her while doctors monitor her breathing.
"I suspect this is something she'll deal with for the rest of her life," MacKinney told FOX 9 News. "Hopefully, we'll be developing new preventative medicines that will help her live a normal life."
Since it's hazardous for her to live the home, Chris Fadling does all the family chores, like shopping and shuttling their daughter to her activities.
"She can't drive because she may go down the road and somebody has a wood-burning furnace going," explained Chris Fadling. "The smell starts making her cough and she'll get dizzy. She could crash the car."
Though she can't go to a parent-teacher conference or a dance recital for fear that something may trigger a deadly attack, the family makes it work.
"I only know my daughter inside of my home," Fadling said. "I plan her birthday parties, but I can't be there."
Even 5-year-old Page Fadling has learned to become a guardian for her mother, playing the role of bouncer when someone approaches the door.
"I say, 'No mom, I can smell they have hair products, so I'm not going to let you get in the house,'" she said.
That's a support system Fadling says she is extremely thankful for.
"I have to wake up every morning and realize how lucky I am to have my daughter, to have my husband -- that we're still together," she said. "There are a lot of husbands that wouldn't stick around for this."
At St. Gabriel's Hospital where the Fadling family are regulars, the staff said they are amazed by Fadling's positive attitude through her struggles even though the list of things she is allergic to keeps getting longer.
"You can't just run away because she's sick," Chris Fadling said.
Even though there are no guarantees her condition will ever get better, Elizabeth Fadling says hope sustains her.
"I can still see the blue sky outside my window," she said. "I can still see. I think I notice the small miracles a little more than other people do and I choose to dwell on that instead of what's not right with my life."