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Ashley Judd shares new photos from 'grueling' 55-hour rescue after breaking leg in Congo rainforest

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·4 min read
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Ashley Judd is sharing new photos from her 55-hour rescue from the Congo rainforest after her "catastrophic accident" in which she nearly lost her leg.

"Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg," the 52-year-old Double Jeopardy actress and United Nations Goodwill Ambassador wrote Tuesday on Instagram. Judd is recovering in a South African hospital after shattering her leg. It took 55 hours to get her from the remote spot where she was injured after tripping on a fallen tree to the hospital for surgery, including a six hour motorbike ride, a bush plane flight and an overnight stay on the floor of a hut.

"I wake up weeping in gratitude, deeply moved by each person who contributed something life-giving and spirit-salving during my grueling 55-hour odyssey," Judd added.

Judd, who suffered major tissue damage and has no timeline as to when she will be able to walk again, shared photos of her incredible journey, calling attention to some of the helpers who saved her life.

Judd, who was doing work at a bonobo research camp in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, spent five hours on the rainforest ground after she was initially injured. One of the trackers went back to the camp for help while another stayed with her while she "howled like a wild animal" and bit into a stick to combat the pain" in between bouts of passing out and going into shock.

"Dieumerci stretched out his leg and put it under my grossly misshapen [leg] to try to keep it still. It was broken in four places and had nerve damage," Judd wrote. He remained seated, "without fidgeting or flinching, for five hours on the rain forest floor. He was with me in my primal pain. He was my witness."

(Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)
Judd being carried out of the rainforest by two of her "heroes." The process took three hours — and she had no pain medicaiton, not even ibuprofen. (Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)

She wrote about Papa Jean, who arrived five hours after her fall and "found me, wretched and wild on the ground." He "calmly assessed my broken leg" and reset the bone as "I bit a stick" and "screamed and writhed. How he did that so methodically while I was like an animal is beyond me. He saved me. & he had to do this twice!," resetting the bone a second time before her motorbike journey.

Judd also praised the six men who moved her into a hammock and then took turns walking for three hours "over rough terrain carrying me out. Heroes."

Of the motorbike journey, she said Didier drove, she sat facing backwards with her back to him, and Maradona was at the back of the bike. As she "would begin to slump, to pass out," Didier would call her to "re-set my position" and Maradona held her leg under the heel the whole time while she held the shattered top part together "with my two hands."

(Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)
Judd on the motorbike with her broken leg, which was a six-hour jourrney. (Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)

"Together we did this for six hours on an irregular, rutted and pocked dirt road that has gullies for rain run off during the rainy season," she wrote, saying Maradona "was the only person to come forward to volunteer for this task."

As she spent the night in a hut, to resume her journey a second day, she praised "the women! My sisters who held me. They blessed me."

(Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)
Judd broke her leg in four places. (Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)

Judd, who is a wilderness pro, often backcountry camping in the states for weeks at a time, said Friday when she first spoke about the "catastrophic accident" that she visits the Congo about twice a year for four to six weeks at a time because her "life partner" heads a bonobo research camp there. (Judd didn't identify her partner, but several times mentioned "Martin" and Martin Surbeck, with whom she is pictured here, heads the Kokolopori Bonobo Research Project camp.)

Amid the long journey to get medical care, Judd said she "nearly lost my leg," which is currently "lame," rendering her unable to walk. For at least the rest of the week, she's confined to bed in an external fixator, a surgical treatment wherein rods are attached to the bone with pins or screws.

"It's going to take some time for that nerve to heal," she said of the injury. "And there's going to be intensive physical therapy... Of course, I will walk again because I'm determined and I believe in modern science and I also believe in miracles. But there's not really a time frame for [recovery]. I have a journey ahead of me."

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