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Ashley Judd revealed on social media Friday that she was involved in a “catastrophic accident” in the Congo rainforest where she nearly lost her leg.
Speaking from an ICU bed, the actress and humanitarian said in an Instagram Live video with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof that she shattered her leg in four places and has nerve damage.
“I was doing what I always do, up at 4:30 in the morning with two of our trackers who are just these world class, brilliant, brilliant men, walking in the dark, and my headlamp had new batteries, but it was a little faint, it wasn’t working quite properly — I’ve come down half-dome in Yosemite under a full moon, I can walk in partial light, but accidents happen — and there was a fallen tree on the path which I didn’t see and I had a very powerful stride going and I just fell over this tree. As I was breaking my leg, I knew it was being broken, I cried out to Maude who was one of the researchers working with me,” said Judd, adding that she knew what an evacuation in the rainforest would entail.
Judd was in the Congo as part of a research project for endangered bonobos. She describes the ape-like animals on her Instagram account as “Egalitarian, matriarchal, peaceful,” adding that they offer hope for humans.
“What was next was an incredibly harrowing 55 hours,” Judd continued in the conversation about her ordeal, explaining that for the first five hours, she was simply laying on the forest floor with her “badly misshapen leg,” biting a stick due to the pain and “howling like a wild animal.” She said that her teeth were chattering and she was in a cold sweat.
As Kristof commented, there was no ambulance service. Judd was transported to a South African trauma unit on a motorbike, where she had to physically hold the top part of her shattered tibia together. “We did that for six hours,” she recalled. “I was at the edge of my very edge.”
Judd, who referenced her privilege during the interview, noted that the difference between herself and a Congolese person is disaster insurance that allowed her to reach an operating table in South Africa before it was too late.
On her own Instagram page, Judd wrote that she spoke with Kristof to shed light on “what it means to be Congolese in extreme poverty with no access to health care, any medication for pain, any type of service, or choices.”
The Hollywood Reporter has reached out to Judd’s representatives for further comment.
The interview, in which Judd was eventually disconnected, presumably due to cell service, is below.
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