This is an open letter to farmers, farmer’s wives, and farmers children: First and foremost… I am not a farmer! I don’t claim to know the love you feel for the land, but I was married to a farmer for over 30 years. On Sept. 17, 2010 heaven got a good man and I got a hole in my heart.
My husband was Russell Wherry. He was a strong man, a proud man. A man who loved many things, me, his children, his grandchildren, his tractors and farming. He loved the simple things in life. I always told him that farming was in his blood and I never shared that gene!
My husband loved tilling the land, planting the fields, to him it wasn’t work, it was love. We owned and operated 55 acres of ground that he planted in corn, soybeans and hay. He loved to plan his fields and would start this process in January. His past planting season was no different. He had it all planned.
In April he was tall and strong, walking without problems. Walking with our grandchildren through the fields, telling them the way he would work the ground. He started his planting in April and May. By June, this strong, tall, proud man was experiencing difficulty walking. It started in his foot and spread quickly to his lower extremities. By August he was using a walker to get around.
He was admitted to Salem Community Hospital, then to the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center, from there he was sent to a nursing facility for physical therapy. By Sept. 15, when he had a recheck at UPMC, he could no longer stand, could not walk, and was having a hard time just sitting. He was confined to a wheelchair and was starting to have trouble with his upper extremities. He was readmitted to UPMC and on Sept. 17, died.
So what does this have to do with farming you ask? Somehow that year, my husband was exposed to a chemical. A chemical that settled in his spinal cord and starting eating away at it. It starting making it impossible for the nerve impulses to work. A chemical from a farm!!
I just want to educate farmers and their families. We can help prevent this from happening! Take the time, be extra careful when you are planting, spraying for weeds, etc. Buy disposable masks, wear them when you open the bags of seeds! Buy latex gloves, wear them when you are handling any chemical! Be extra careful!! Never walk through a freshly sprayed field! Be careful!
Did my husband do something terribly wrong? Maybe. Was it his fault? Possibly. Could it have been prevented? YES!
I know he didn’t wear a mask, I know he didn’t like gloves. I know he took his classes, passed his tests. I know this, but I also know his love of the land cost him cost him his life!
Farmers, you have wives who love you, children who need you and grandchildren you need to be there for!
Don’t let this mistake that my husband made happen to you! This has been a hard walk in life and I don’t wish it on anybody!
Sheri Wherry Egli