Nicholas Ashill with his wife. Ashill who was paralysed from the waist down underwent surgeries to fix his pelvic injuries in the US and Al Zahra Hospital in the UAE. Image Credit: Supplied

Dubai: A Sharjah-based university professor, who was paralysed from waist down after being hit by a pickup truck in United States, has plans to complete his run for charity.

Nicholas Ashill, a professor of marketing at the American University in Sharjah (AUS), was close to completing a 5,400km run from the west to the east coast of America to spread awareness on pulmonary fibrosis when he was hit by a vehicle in Columbus, Ohio and left for dead.

Almost thirteen surgeries and a year later, Ashill, 52, says he is still determined to go back to the USA to finish the remaining 922km of his run. The surgeries for his pelvic injuries took place in the US and later at Al Zahra Hospital in the UAE.

“I started my run in May 2017 in Los Angeles with the objective of running just over 5,000km. My primary motive was to raise awareness of a horrible disease of the lungs that took the life of my mother in 2015,” said Ashill, a New Zealander and father of four.

“I was running on the hard shoulder of highway US 40 next to the barrier when a pickup truck veered off the road, came onto the shoulder and hit me side on. Within a nanosecond, I made the decision to jump out of its way, which I’m glad I did, or else I could have been dead.”

According to police evidence, he said the driver deliberately came off the road and hit him before driving away on August 2 last year.

Ashill, who was on a hands-free Skype call with his wife and children, said he was thrown into a ditch which was not visible from the road. It took 52 minutes until paramedics determined his location with the help of his wife, who was still on call, and transferred him by air to Ohio State University Hospital.

“I was lucky in many ways to be transferred to that hospital where in the next four months I had undergone multiple surgeries in my legs, pelvis, and bowel and then rehabilitation. I moved from being bedridden, to a wheelchair and then walking with crutches,” he said.

When Ashill was allowed to leave the hospital, he came back to the UAE in January 2018 to continue with his treatment and also get back to teaching.

He was referred to Dr Maher Abbas, professor of surgery and medical director of the colorectal clinic at Al Zahra Hospital in Dubai, who successfully performed a series of three operations to treat his ruptured bowel and restore its normal function. He has since dropped the crutches.

Though Ashill has yet another one year to fully recover through physiotherapy, he said nothing will stop him from going back to continue spreading awareness on the disease.

“I plan to continue the run. It’s something extremely important to me on a personal and emotional level to go back and finish the remaining 922km. However, at the moment, I can’t do it, but it will be at least in the next two years to be realistic.”

Ashill had previously participated in several marathons, including Marathon de Sables in the Sahara Desert and the Comrades ultra-marathon in South Africa.

“The accident has been a huge life-changer for me and my family. I could have been easily dead, but fortunately someone was looking after me.”