Originally created 09/11/05

Despite obstacles, woman resumes cross-country trek



Even after 8,000 miles, Deborah Simone's journey is not done. The former Augusta resident today will resume the Journey of Hope from St. Louis on her way by bike to Washington, D.C., to raise awareness of hepatitis C.

With her husband, Paul Hagan, she began walking across the country on this day three years ago, a journey interrupted several times by Mr. Hagan's failing health. He was infected with the virus 20 years ago from a blood transfusion during back surgery.

He followed Dr. Simone as she walked along roadways all the way to the Pacific Northwest. They were on their way back when his condition worsened and they went to Emory University Hospital, where he had once been on the liver transplant list. He died there in November, but not before he asked her to continue the trip, Dr. Simone said.

"It was truly amazing that he laid down his life to just get the word out," she said. "He suffered endlessly. Foregoing everything to do that walk, it was amazing. He was an amazing man."

Because her back won't let her walk as she did before, she plans to bike. Though Mr. Hagan trailed her during her previous journey, this time she will be alone.

"I will not have any support system whatsoever," she said. "So I'm putting everyone into a panic, but this is the least I could do for Paul."

She hopes to end up in Washington the week of Oct. 18, where she plans to meet with some Augusta-area lawmakers about the virus.

It is the most common bloodborne viral infection in the U.S., affecting an estimated 3.9 million people, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It is also the leading cause for liver transplants.

"It's the most underpublicized health issue of our time," Dr. Simone said. She has only 2,300 miles and 16 states left to get her message out.

Reach Tom Corwin at (706) 823-3213 or tom.corwin@augustachronicle.com.

TO CONTRIBUTE

Corporations and individuals can send donations to: Journey of Hope Inc., P.O. Box 1216, Evans, GA 30809-1216.



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