Steve Hessert was hit by a snowmobiler and left on the trail.

BERLIN, N.H. (AP) – More than seven months after he, his sled and dogs were hit by a snowmobiler who left them on a trail, Portland resident Steve Hessert has endured five surgeries and feels pain with every step he takes.

“I’ve had kind of a tough recovery,” said Hessert, who was running his sled dog team last February when he was hit from behind.

“Hitting me doesn’t bother me as much as leaving me,” he told the Berlin Daily Sun.

Hessert, a lawyer, anticipates at least one more operation.

Hiking, golf, helping with chores on his farm, and even feeding his dogs are out of the question for now.

Hessert said he expected to be back training his sled dogs this winter but realizes that goal is unrealistic.

However, he remains positive and hopes he eventually will be able to do the things he did before the crash.

A competitive dogsledder, Hessert was training for a 250-mile race when he was hit. He started in Grafton Notch and had gone about 50 miles when he was struck around 5 p.m. with the temperature around 25 degrees below zero.

He was on the right side of the trail dressed in a red suit with three reflective triangles on the back.

The impact blew off one of his boots and he lost a glove, but he had a sleeping bag. In the subzero temperature, he said, “I knew if I didn’t get in that sleeping bag, I was going to be in trouble.”

He managed to get in after tying down his dogs.

Snowmobiler Todd Roy of Berlin found him unconscious on the trail.

Hessert was taken to Androscoggin Valley Hospital in Berlin and airlifted that evening to Maine Medical Center in Portland. Both legs were fractured in several places.

He used a wheelchair after being released from the hospital in March. He progressed to crutches and now uses two canes.

Hessert goes to physical therapy twice a week and does exercises daily at home. While he can walk with the canes, he said there is pain every time he takes a step. His left leg has some nerve damage and he suspects he will end up with a permanent limp.

Three weeks after the accident, Denis Lancey, 29, of Berlin, was charged with operating the snowmobile that hit Hessert. His trial on a felony charge of conduct after an accident is set for November in Coos County Superior Court. Lancey has pleaded innocent.

Hessert said he has never heard from Lancey. He said he accepts that accidents happen but he is troubled the driver did not stop to help him after the crash.

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