THE LAST FOURTEEN months haven’t been kind to Marquette resident Anna Dravland.
The next few months may be even bleaker.
In November of 2017, at age 34, she suffered a stroke, which we chronicled in Word on the Street. She survived but not without debilitating damage. She could hardly walk and talk at first, but with the help of her doctors, nurses, therapists, family and friends, she got back on her feet again.
She became almost whole again.
She went back to work at Travel Marquette. Or least she tried, but it proved too much. Her symptoms lingered–nerve damage to her right side, extreme sensitivity to light and noise, fatigue, occasional spasticity, confusion and memory problems.
She had to give the job up after a few months. And that was tough for this ambitious, outgoing young woman, a graduate of NMU with a degree in hospitality management.
“On some days, I can stay awake for only eight hours,” she says. “Just enough time to eat, to get the mail, and to walk my dog. And then I’m back in bed.”
She badly wants to work, but she’s not able, at least not now. She’s disabled.
So that’s where you’d think the government would step in, right? Disability benefits?
Well, ever since she had to leave her job back in August, she’s filled out applications, given interviews, and jumped through numerous hoops the government has thrown up for her…in hopes that she’d get some financial relief. Just a modest sum to live on.
Nothing so far.
On her last call with a Social Security Disability case worker in December, she was told that maybe within three to six months a judge might rule on her eligibility for benefits.
In the meantime, tough luck.
She’s been living on donations from friends, and help from her family, but that’s drying up. Her parents live on a fixed income. Anna’s’ trying to sell her car, a 2008 Impala. No takers so far. She’s had to switch apartments. She’s behind on her gas bill and facing the threat of a shut-off.
She does have food stamps and Medicaid and she’s thankful for the food pantry. But this is not kind of life once envisioned by a smart, personable 35 year old woman with a college degree.
“I’m trying to do the best I can do,” she says, “but I don’t know what else I can do. And believe me, I know there are others who are in the same situation. It’s frightening.”
The big problem for her now is housing. She can’t afford to stay in her apartment much longer. She’s considered moving in with her parents in Little Lake but they’re already living in a small, overcrowded house. And worse, her mother is intensely allergic to Anna’s dog, her longtime companion.
She hasn’t given up hope and she’s come up with ideas for jobs that she might be able to handle: 1) Occasional speaking engagements (how to survive a debilitating illness, especially at a young age, would be compelling) 2) Setting up a salaried position as administrator of the nonprofit Spread Goodness Day, which she started a couple of years ago, and 3) Partnering with a friend in an upscale consignment boutique.
All of them would utilize her skills but would also allow for her disabilities–confusion and memory problems, and chronic fatigue.
But all of those possible plans lie in the future.
For now, Anna is living day-to-day, waiting and hoping for good news from the Social Security Administration. And she’s put out a plea once again on gofundme for help from friends. She doesn’t like asking, but she doesn’t know what else to do. She needs a place to live.
She needs to live.
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