Farmer Sends Single N95 Mask To New York Governor To Give To Frontline Worker

by Julie Scagell
Governor Andrew Cuomo letter
Nurphoto/Getty Images, Governor Andrew Cuomo/Facebook

A Kansas farmer wanted to do his part to help doctors in New York

As help pours into New York from all over the country by way of personal protective equipment, ventilators, tests, and even doctors and nurses themselves, one gift stood out to governor Andrew Cuomo: a single N95 mask sent to him by a Kansas farmer.

Cuomo shared a letter he received from the farmer on social media as well as during his daily coronavirus press briefing, saying in part, “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.”

The Kansas farmer and his wife sent the mask to Cuomo, saying they hoped it could be used by a doctor or nurse.

“I am a retired farmer hunkered down in N.E. Kansas with my wife who has but one lung and occasional problems with her remaining lung,” read the hand-written letter from Dennis Ruhnke and his wife, Sharon. “We are in our 70s now, and, frankly, I am afraid for her.”

Dennis went onto say the couple had five masks and only needed four, so he sent the extra mask to the governor to give to a doctor or nurse on the frontlines of this pandemic. “Enclosed, find a solitary N95 mask left over from my farming days. It has never been used,” he wrote. “If you could, could you please give this mask to a nurse or a doctor in your city?”

Cuomo got teary-eyed after reading the letter.

“You want to talk about a snapshot of humanity,” Cuomo said during his briefing. “You have five masks, what do you do? Do you keep all five? Do you hide the five masks, do you keep them for yourself or others? No, you send one mask. You send one mask to New York for a doctor or nurse. 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. And it’s that generosity for me makes up for all the ugliness that you see. Take one mask; I’ll keep four.”

“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,” Dennis told the Associated Press after hearing his gesture went viral. “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.”