On March 21, Sarosh Ashraf Janjua, a Massachusetts-based locums cardiologist was pulled over for speeding along I-35 in Minnesota, where she travels once a month for work. Janjua treats patients in the cardiology intensive care unit of Essentia Health-St. Mary's Medical Center in Duluth, including those with COVID-19 who suffer from cardiac complications.
“I had just gotten off my shift and I was deep in thought,” Janjua tells Yahoo Lifestyle. When state trooper Brian J. Schwartz pulled her over, “I was sheepish — I knew I didn’t have a leg to stand on.”
Janjua says after viewing her Massachusetts license, the officer asked why she was in Minnesota, and learned she was a doctor.
Schwartz was “professional and polite” while lecturing her about utilizing resources — including from herself as someone who treat patients — by potentially having a car accident. “Feeling thoroughly chastised, I waited for him to write me a ticket. Instead, he told me he was going to let me off with a warning,” the doctor explained in a viral Facebook post on Friday.
The officer went to his vehicle and when he returned, he was carrying a few objects. “I assumed he was handing back my license, forgetting that he only copied down the information to avoid touching it,” Janjua tells Yahoo Lifestyle.
Schwartz handed Janjua five individually wrapped masks, which he received from the state for his personal protection. “I burst into tears,” she wrote on Facebook. “And though it may just have been the cold wind, I think he teared up a little as well, before wishing me well and walking away.”
“Like all health care workers and emergency responders around the world, I have felt afraid of not having adequate protective equipment, and in my darkest moments, have worried about what would happen if I fell sick far from home,” she continued in her post. “This complete stranger, who owed me nothing and is more on the front lines than I am, shared his precious masks with me, without my even asking. The veil of civilization may be thin, but not all that lies behind it is savage. We are going to be OK.”
Owing to a national shortage of personal protective gear for medical workers, first responders and people with essential jobs, many are reusing face masks (if they possess them at all) to treat COVID-19 patients. Janjua told CNN’s Anderson Cooper that while her hospital has not yet encountered an acute mask shortage, she had been reusing an N95 mask when seeing patients.
Janjua suspects that Schwartz spotted her mask while she rooted around in her purse for her license. “I can’t tell you what it did for someone who is very scared,” she told Cooper.
“This gesture was a great sacrifice,” Janjua tells Yahoo Lifestyle. “I tried to thank him, but I was sobbing. I might have even embarrassed him a little.” Schwartz quietly wished her luck and reminded her to slow down, before driving away.
A spokesperson from the Minnesota State Troopers did not return Yahoo Lifestyle’s requests for comment. A Facebook post by the department on Sunday read, “Thank you to Sarosh for her hard work and dedication. Troopers are working hard during the pandemic and are thinking about all the first responders who are caring for Minnesotans during this critical time.”
“The whole encounter was only five minutes,” Janjua tells Yahoo Lifestyle, “but I will never forget it.”
For the latest coronavirus news and updates, follow along at https://news.yahoo.com/coronavirus. According to experts, people over 60 and those who are immunocompromised continue to be the most at risk. If you have questions, please reference the CDC and WHO’s resource guides.
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