Jan 24 2001 12:00AM
By Denise Heilbrun Staff Writer
What began as an Internet friendship has lead to a Torrington family supporting a man in his quest.
The saga began with Julie Hiebert chatting with friends on the Internet, in the Wyoming room in Yahoo. She started visiting Donnie Williams of Dayton, Ohio (formerly of Big Piney), and they told each other a bit of their personal lives and became friends.
As time passed he told her of his quest to walk across the United States.
Williams, an ex-Marine, was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis (MS) three years ago and has since been deluged with high medical costs. The medication is what has drained his pockets.
He told Hiebert that he wanted to trek across America, on The American Discovery Trail, to raise awareness to the public of the high cost of medication that it costs individuals who suffer from MS must pay.
"There's ignorance," Williams said. "It costs $898.99 just for one medication per month. The medicine is a lot cheaper if you can get it from Canada or Mexico."
He will begin his 4,956 mile hike in April, starting in San Francisco and will finish at Cape Henlopen State Park in Delaware.
"It should take me approximately 411 days," Williams said.
Last year he trekked the Appalachian Trail. It took him seven months.
Williiams wants to go before Congress to speak to them about the drug companies and those people with diseases who have to pay high medication costs. He also wants to raise money for the MS Society.
"What we need to do as a population is appeal to the government," Williams said. "Let them know that drug companies are getting rich off people with serious diseases, who are disabled."
Hiebert and her mother, Carol Brothwell, are whole- heartedly supporting Williams in his effort to raise awareness.
Brothwell is a home health caregiver in Torrington and works with some MS patients.
She sympathizes with Williams and his cause to help make people aware of patients with disabilities and the problems they have with the high cost of medication.
Williams has a corporate sponsor, but cannot divulge who it is at this time, because they haven't signed papers yet. That's why Williams is in Torrington. He decided to stop and meet his Internet friend on his way to California.
"I am heading to San Francisco the end of January and will finalize the sponsor at that time," he said.
When asked what his doctor thinks of this trek, Williams replied, "He thinks I'm brain dead." Williams quit taking the medication his doctor prescribed. He doesn't consider himself as being disabled. On a pain scale of one to 10, he pain is usually at a 12.
"I am always in pain," he said. "I just deal with it."
His legs bother him the most.
When asked what he would do if the disease hits him hard on the trail, Williams said that he would finish.
"I'll crawl; I will finish this trail, and I will be Number 5," he said, referring to the fact that there have been four previous people that have finished this American trek.
Williams will carry $6,000 worth of equipment in his backpack, which weighs approximately 120 pounds. He asks people to send him care packages along the way.
"I don't want any money," he said. "Letters (to keep him motivated), granola snacks, dehydrated food, jerky, anything that a cross country hiker would use. What I really need is a couple bottles of some anti-venom. I have to cross about 250 miles of desert, and if I come across any snakes, I will be prepared."
Hiebert and Brothwell both are concerned about Williams' welfare and have asked him to check in when he arrives in towns.
They also would like residents to send Williams' care packages to them, and they will forward the items to him at his check points. He has four places set up to receive mail. Torrington residents who would like to help can send items to Julie Heibert, c/o Milford Brothwell, P.O. Box 397, Torrington, WY 82240.
Williams would also like people with MS to please e-mail "Walk America" at Walk firstname.lastname@example.org. That way when he goes before Congress, he will have a list of Americans with MS who pay outrageous prices for meds.
"What I would like is for MS patients across America to sign up. Give your name, address, the medications you take and the monthly cost of them," he said.
Williams has a friend from Nebraska who is going to set up a website for him. It should be up and running in six months.
The trek he is following
is also on the Internet at http://www.discov- erytrail.org.
©Torrington Telegram 2001