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Anna Dravland of Marquette and the founder of Spread Goodness Day, is a Superior Woman. Dravland, who suffered a debilitating stroke in 2017, is working hard to spread joy worldwide in spite of what some would see as limitations.
By Dale Hemmila
If everyone lived with the same life attitude as Anna Dravland, there’s no question the world would be a better place to live. At just 35 years of age, Dravland, a Marquette Michigan resident, has been to the brink of death, was forced to leave her dream job, and regularly travels hundreds of miles for medical treatments.
And yet, she remains focused on how she can help bring out the good in all of us.
Just over a year ago, Dravland lay alone in the middle of a Marquette street, wondering if she was going to die. Today, she is looking forward to the second annual Spread Goodness Day, an event she conceived, and with which she is optimistic that goodness will be shared by thousands on that day.
Let’s go back to November 16, 2017. Dravland was walking to work at her job at the local convention and visitor’s bureau, Travel Marquette, a job she felt she was born to do, even to the point of stating in her job interview: “This is my job; you can’t give it to anyone else.” Just the week prior, she had asked to be considered for additional training, with the hope of one day leading the organization.
As she was walking and texting her mother on that day, without warning she began to have trouble with the vision in her left eye.
“It was like something flipped off in my brain,” she recalled recently, while sipping tea at a cozy Marquette coffee shop. ”Things weren’t working and I dropped everything and fell in the middle of the street.”
She didn’t know it at the moment, but Dravland was suffering a stroke caused by a torn carotid artery.
By 8:30 that November morning, Dravland was in serious trouble. She couldn’t speak and initially there was no one else around. Shortly a single vehicle came by and Dravland said she knew she had to get up and tried to throw herself at the car. It went past only to stop a little further up the block.
Here is where a little luck took over, or perhaps it was kismet, call it what you will, but by chance the driver of the car was Nancy Maas, a nursing instructor at nearby Northern Michigan University. She saw Dravland lying on the street and rushed to help her.
“She laid me down on the ground and said, ‘I’m a nurse and I’m going to take care of you,’” Dravland recalled. Maas’ call for an ambulance was answered, and in minutes Dravland was being whisked away to the emergency room.
Dravland said she was terrified as she heard the EMTs diagnose her symptoms confirming she was having a stroke.
At one point she thought to herself: “Am I dying?”
Then her next thought came: “Don’t close your eyes.”
“I was convinced if I closed my eyes I was going to die,” she said.
She didn’t die.
Because timing is so important for stroke victims, the providence of someone skilled seeing and recognizing that she was in trouble, and then reacting to it, probably made the difference in Dravland’s case and she is grateful for Nancy Maas’ quick action.
“I sometimes send her a message,” Dravland said, “to say thank you for my life today.”
Dravland also praised the care she received as she reached the ER at Marquette General Health Systems, recalling it seemed like a dozen professionals were there to meet the ambulance.
The ER experience is much of a blur for her and there is a three day gap in her memory of the emergency and follow-up experience.
The extent of the damage of the stroke was significant, as she was paralyzed on her right side and could not speak. Follow-up after her hospital stay included physical, occupational, speech, and vision therapy.
During her recovery, however, she became focused on an event that she had conceived in her mind seven years earlier. Friday, March 9, 2018 was to be the first-ever Spread Goodness Day.
Its mission: Create an atmosphere of empowerment worldwide that the smallest acts of goodness will always make a difference. Change the world for the better.
Its goal: Spread Goodness, plain and simple.
The thought was that even one simple act of goodness was a start. Goodness could be spread with a small effort like a random smile, or a larger effort by sponsoring a goodness event, or just something in between, but the idea was that for one day people would join in and conduct acts of kindness wherever they were.
But Dravland had a problem. She needed to complete the website and promotional materials her project needed with what she envisioned was the proper font, colors and correct branding, while recovering from her stroke.
Without being able to speak, and still paralyzed, it was hard for her to relay the proper thoughts for others to do what was needed so she took the initiative.
“I knew what I had to do,” she said. “(I said) I’m going to figure out how to do this one-handed on my phone.”
She did, and the first ever Spread Goodness Day happened as she had played it out in her mind over her seven-year conception.
Because of her setback, she primarily focused on the Marquette area, but even with a relatively small population base, the results were considerable.
“With hashtags and emails, I personally recorded over 10,000 acts” she said. “I know there were thousands more. People were running all over town delivering flowers and cookies and buying others coffee. One business provided breakfast for service members. It was beautiful.”
And the day and her determination to spread goodness, despite her own setbacks, were instruments to help her move forward in her recovery. She remains resolved to keep it going.
“This isn’t a new concept, to have people do good,” she said. “But it was a new brand. I’m going to change the world and I’m going to do it with goodness. I still believe that. I can still make the world better by giving people a platform to do good.”
As for the change in her, well there is no doubt that her life was changed on that November day. She tried to go back to work, but despite the significant support from her employer, it didn’t pan out. She deals with limitations.
“I can’t feel my arm, I can’t work for too long, I can’t think for too long,” she said. In addition to her physical limitations, bright lights bother her, so she often wears dark glasses. She continues to travel to the University of Michigan for follow-up from her stroke. Fortunately, she qualifies for Medicaid to manage the expense.
On the plus side, she has the grit and attitude to continue with her goal of spreading goodness. She has been the recipient of that goodness, as well. She is grateful for the generosity of others who have provided “cards, money and food.”
“I’ve felt like I’ve become a child of this town,” she said. “I have beautiful family and friends. People are the only reason I’m where I am now. The people of Marquette, but even people around the country have helped. I never felt unloved, but I have never felt more loved.”
Looking back on the day of her stroke—she calls it her re-birthday—she remains determined in her recovery process.
“You have to fight,” she said. “I know I’m a good person and I have love in my heart. As long as I keep fighting, I know I’m going to be happy. I do the best that I can and I’m lucky that I have a lot of people in my life that make me happy.”
Dravland is certain that happiness will continue as she plans the second annual Spread Goodness Day set for Friday, March 15, 2019. She has set a goodness goal of a million acts of goodness spread over 25 countries.
She has also set a personal goal for herself to be able to take her goodness concept to the Ellen DeGeneres Show.
“That’s my secret dream in the whole world,” she said with a huge smile. “I want to dance with her; I want to laugh with her.”
If attitude and resolve are involved it just may happen.
For more information about Spread Goodness Day, visit the website or the Facebook page at: