A retired farmer and his immunocompromised wife in Kansas sent New York governor Andrew Cuomo one of their N95 masks for the governor to pass along to a frontline worker in need.
The mask was accompanied by a heartfelt letter from Dennis and Sharon Ruhnke that Cuomo read aloud at his daily press briefing on Friday.
A Kansas farmer sent one N95 mask to Gov. Cuomo to help healthcare workers — even though his wife has one lung and diabetes.— VICE News (@vicenews) April 24, 2020
"How selfless is that? How giving is that?" Cuomo said today. pic.twitter.com/SGHBqY044D
“I am a retired farmer hunkered down in northeast Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung. She also has diabetes… We are in our 70s now and frankly, I am afraid for her,” read the letter.
The governor also shared the letter on Facebook. He posted, “I received this letter from a farmer in northeast Kansas. His wife is ill, and he is aging. He sent me one of five N95 masks he has from farming to pass on to a doctor or nurse in New York. This is humanity at its best. I share his letter as inspiration.”
I received this letter from a farmer in northeast Kansas. His wife is ill and he is aging.He sent me 1 of 5 N95 masks...Posted by Governor Andrew Cuomo on Friday, April 24, 2020
Cuomo became emotional as he continued to read the letter.
“Enclosed, find a solitary N95 mask leftover from my farming days. It has never been used…If you could, could you please give this mask to a nurse or a doctor in your city?” Dennis wrote.
As he finished the read aloud, Cuomo commented, “How beautiful is that, how selfless is that, how giving is that?”
“It’s that love, that courage, that generosity of spirit that makes this country so beautiful.
Mr. Ruhnke told the Associated Press, “Simply watching the news, and day after day after day the death was rising. And they were pushing the N-95 thing so much. I thought I had some masks somewhere. I went back to the farm, dug around in some masks and lo and behold they were there.”
It has been well documented that the shortage of personal protective equipment has greatly affected healthcare and other frontline workers who require the masks to protect themselves and prevent the spread of COVID-19.
Although Sharon Ruhnke is certainly at risk and entitled to protect herself with an N95 mask, the couple recognized that they had more than they needed. It’s gestures like these that will get us through these uncertain times and ensure we emerge from this crisis stronger, better, and more humane.
“I would have felt terrible if I threw it away, but it made me feel pretty good to send it on to somebody who might be able to use it,” Mr. Ruhnke said. “They sounded almost desperate for masks. So I thought, it was just one little gesture. But maybe if you get enough of these little gestures, it will all come out for the better in the end.”