This week, the Herald is speaking to Kiwis who have survived illnesses, accidents and crimes that almost killed them, as part of our I Should be Dead series.

A Kiwi ultra marathon runner who was hit by a ute on a US highway and left for dead is back on his feet five months after the incident that left him fighting for his life.

Nick Ashill had been running across the country for 80 days to raise money and awareness for pulmonary fibrosis - a serious lung disease that killed his mother in 2015 - when he was struck on a remote section of road in Ohio on August 2.

The impact of the collision smashed Ashill's pelvis and badly broke his right femur, as well as causing severe internal injuries. The vehicle involved didn't stop.

Advertisement

Ashill's wife, Sarah, was 9424km away holidaying in Cyprus and on a hands-free Skype call to him when he was hit.

Read more: Horror on the line: woman on phone to husband as ute hits him

She and the couple's eldest daughter, Emily, who was following Ashill in a motorhome, alerted emergency services and helped them find Ashill.

He was flown to a hospital in the nearby town of Columbus and rushed straight into surgery, while Sarah rushed to book and board a flight to the US to be at her husband's bedside.

Kiwi ultra-marathon runner Nick Ashill in hospital after being struck by a ute and left for dead on a US highway. Photo / Supplied
Kiwi ultra-marathon runner Nick Ashill in hospital after being struck by a ute and left for dead on a US highway. Photo / Supplied

After several major surgeries, 12 weeks in hospital and three in a rehabilitation centre Ashill is recovering in a house the family are renting.

He can bear weight on both legs, walk short distances using a walking frame or crutches and has physical therapy three or four times a week.

"The legs are healing well so that's good. I've been on a bike for the first time - I managed to get one full rotation for the first time [in early December] so that was a milestone for me," he told the Herald on Sunday.

However, Ashill will still need treatment for at least another year and his orthopaedic surgeon has told him he'll never run again (although Ashill's determined to prove him wrong).

"It's often felt [like] two steps forward and one step back," Sarah said.

"There truly are daily challenges. We just think something is sussed and then something else comes along."

Nick Ashill (with wife Sarah) was using a wheelchair in September. Now he can walk with crutches. Photo / Supplied
Nick Ashill (with wife Sarah) was using a wheelchair in September. Now he can walk with crutches. Photo / Supplied
Five months after being hit by a ute while running, Nick Ashill (with daughters Bella and Abi and wife Sarah) can walk with crutches. Photo / Supplied
Five months after being hit by a ute while running, Nick Ashill (with daughters Bella and Abi and wife Sarah) can walk with crutches. Photo / Supplied

In January, the family - who are originally from Wellington - plan to return to the United Arab Emirates where they have lived for nine years.

Ashill said he was excited to go back to work as a marketing lecturer at the University of Sharjah "and use my brain again".

He will have to fly back to the US in March or April for further surgery to repair damage to his bowel.

Although his physical wounds are starting to heal, the emotional and financial tolls the crash has had on the family are still significant.

"I've become very fearful and extremely risk averse when it comes to walking on the side of roads," Ashill said.

Police are yet to arrest anyone in relation to the hit and run.

The couple returned to the crash site recently. Ashill had wanted to go, but when they got there "everything changed" and he froze with fear.

"I couldn't actually walk to the site, which was only 20, 30m from where we parked - just the fear factor of being hit again."

Sarah said she saw a black scrape tinged with blue about 6.5m long on the road barrier she believed was left by the dark-coloured ute that hit Ashill.

The discovery strengthened her and Ashill's suspicions the incident was deliberate.

Ashill told the Weekend Herald in September he remembered seeing the vehicle pull on to the shoulder and speed up before it hit him.

It was still unclear how much Ashill's medical treatment would cost.

When he was discharged from hospital the bill had totalled $670,000. His travel insurer had indicated it would pay at least $600,000.

The family had been living on money raised through Go Fund Me and Givealittle pages set up by relatives and friends.

"That's been an absolutely god-send because that's the money that bought the groceries and the petrol and helped us be here," Sarah said.