Cautioning farmers

Dear Editor:

First and foremost, I am not a farmer. I don’t claim to know the love farmers feel for the land, but I was married to a farmer for 30-plus 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 own 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 last 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 UPMC, and 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 also. He was readmitted to UPMC, and on Sept. 17, he 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. Starting making it impossible for the nerve impulses to work. A chemical … from a farm.

I just want to educate farmers, their families. They can help prevent this from happening. They need to take the time, be extra careful when they are planting, spraying for weeds, etc. They need to buy disposable masks, wear them when they open the bags of seeds. They need to buy latex gloves, wear them when they are handling any chemical. Be extra careful. Never should a farmer walk through a freshly sprayed field. Be careful!

Did my husband do something terribly wrong that year? 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 all this, but I also know his love of the land cost him. Cost him his life.

Farmers have wives who love them, children who need them, grandchildren they need to be there for. I hope they don’t let this mistake that my husband made happen to them.

This is a hard walk, and I don’t wish it on anybody!

Take care, be careful, and thanks for reading

Sheri Wherry Egli