"The veil of civilization may be thin, but not all that lies behind it is savage. We are going to be ok," Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua wrote after Trooper Brian J. Schwartz gave her five N95 masks

By Joelle Goldstein
March 30, 2020 06:49 PM
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MN State Troopers

A Minnesota state trooper is being praised for his kind actions after he pulled over a traveling doctor for speeding — only to let her go with a warning, and a little something extra.

Dr. Sarosh Ashraf Janjua was on her way to a hospital in Duluth, where she works as a locums cardiologist, on March 21 when she was pulled over on the Interstate 35 by State Trooper Brian J. Schwartz, a spokesperson from the state’s Department of Public Safety (DPS) tells PEOPLE.

After lecturing her about the dangers of speeding, Schwartz did something Janjua, 37, never expected: let her off with a warning — and a handful of N95 masks.

“I burst into tears,” Janjua wrote in a Facebook post after their encounter. “Like all healthcare 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.”

“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,” she added.

The kind gesture meant more to Janjua than Schwartz likely realized, explaining in her post that it came as she was making one of her monthly trips from her home state of Massachusetts to Minnesota for work.

However, this month was a bit different because Janjua opted to drive instead of fly, according to The Star Tribune.

“I can’t justify flying back and forth with this rather unusually contagious virus,” she told the outlet.

So Janjua hit the road, driving toward the quarantine unit she works at in Duluth. As she was nearing the end of her drive, the cardiologist was pulled over by Schwartz around 5:50 p.m., the DPS spokesperson tells PEOPLE.

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“When he saw my Massachusetts driver’s license, he asked me what I was doing all the way out in Minnesota, so I told him,” Janjua recalled in her post.

“He went back to his patrol car to look up my license, and when he returned, quite firmly told me it was very irresponsible of me to be speeding, especially since I would not only take up resources if I got into an accident, but would also not be in a position to help patients,” she continued. “Feeling thoroughly chastised, I waited for him to write me a ticket.”

But that’s not what happened.

“As I sputtered to apologize and say thank you, he reached in to hand me what I assumed was my license back,” Janjua recalled. “It wasn’t until my hand had closed around what he was giving me that its unexpected bulkiness drew my eyes to it. Five N95 masks, from the supply the state had given him for his protection.”

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“I burst into tears. 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,” she continued. “The veil of civilization may be thin, but not all that lies behind it is savage. We are going to be ok.”

In a statement to PEOPLE, the DPS spokesperson says Schwartz was compelled to help after “he noticed what appeared to be two used N95 masks in Janjua’s purse that he assumed she was reusing.”

Knowing there was a shortage of personal protective equipment (PPE) — and in particular, N95 masks during the coronavirus pandemic — Schwartz figured the doctor could use them at work, the DPS spokesperson explains.

“Troopers are working hard during the pandemic and are thinking about all the first responders who are caring for Minnesotans during this critical time,” adds the DPS spokesperson.

Since sharing her story, Janjua’s post has been shared over 16,000 times and commented on thousands of times, with people around the world praising Schwartz for his kind act.

“I teared up as well by reading your post. Generous and kind people are out there as well to make this world beautiful,” wrote one user, while another commented, “What a wonderful story of kindness.”

“I wish I could meet this man and shake his hand. His gesture is larger in scope than this pandemic can ever be,” added someone else. “Two fine examples of what it means to be human and alive in the truest sense. Bless them both.”

As for Janjua, who is continuing to serve on the frontlines, she told CNN she will treasure their encounter for months to come.

“I think we are all just hanging on to something that makes us feel safe,” she told the outlet. “Somehow, for Americans, that something has become N95 masks and toilet paper. Trooper Schwartz’s act of kindness became my something.”

As of Monday afternoon, there have been at least 160,718 cases and 3,002 deaths attributed to coronavirus in the United States, according to the New York Times. In Minnesota, at least 576 cases and 10 deaths have been reported, according to the Times.

As information about the coronavirus pandemic rapidly changes, PEOPLE is committed to providing the most recent data in our coverage. Some of the information in this story may have changed after publication. For the latest on COVID-19, readers are encouraged to use online resources from CDC, WHO, and local public health departments. To help provide doctors and nurses on the front lines with life-saving medical resources, donate to Direct Relief here.