Actor and political activist Ashley Judd is thanking those who aided her after she badly injured herself in a jungle in the Democratic Republic of Congo. In a grateful and moving post on Instagram, the star described the situation and shared pictures and a video of the locals who helped her make it to an intensive care unit.
The photos and Judd’s moving caption for them paint a picture of compassion, patience, and care that we could all learn from.
On Tuesday, Ashley Judd shared photos and a video of her ‘grueling’ experience highlighting those who helped to save her life.
“Friends. Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg,” Judd wrote on Instagram. “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.”
According to the actor, one of the locals who helped her, a man named Dieumerci, “stretched out his leg and put it under my grossly misshapen left leg to try to keep it still.”
“It was broken in four places and had nerve damage,” she wrote of her injured leg. “Dieumerci (‘Thanks be to God’) remained seated, without fidgeting or flinching, for 5 hours on the rain forest floor. He was with me in my primal pain. He was my witness.”
Judd said another individual, named Papa Jean, ultimately found the pair following a five-hour search. By then, according to Judd, she was “wretched and wild on the ground” while Papa Jean examined her badly broken leg.
“He told me what he had to do. I bit a stick. I held onto Maud,” Judd described. “And Papa Jean, with certainty began to manipulate and adjust my broken bones back into something like a position I could be transported in, while I screamed and writhed.”
“How he did that so methodically while I was like an animal is beyond me,” she added. “He saved me. & he had to do this twice!”
The star described the process of getting to transportation involved no fewer than six men carrying her in a makeshift hammock for three hours over “rough terrain.”
From there, two men named Didier and Maradona rode with Judd on a motorbike for six hours. Six hours!
“Didier and Maradona: Didier drove the motorbike. I sat facing backwards, his back my backrest,” she explained. “When I would begin to slump, to pass out, he would call to me to re-set my position to lean on him.”
“Maradona rode on the very back of the motorbike, I faced him. He held my broken leg under the heel and I held the shattered top part together with my two hands,” Judd wrote. “Together we did this for 6 hours on an irregular, rutted, and pocked dirt road that has gullies for rain runoff during the rainy season. Maradona was the only person to come forward to volunteer for this task.”
Judd also shared pictures of the women who comforted her while she waited in agonizing pain.
“The women! My sisters who held me. They blessed me,” Judd’s caption reads.
Judd said she is “in an ICU trauma unit in beautiful South Africa, which has taken me in from the Congo: a country I deeply love, which is not, unfortunately, equipped to deal with massive catastrophic injuries like I have had.”
“And the difference between a Congolese person and me is disaster insurance that allowed me 55 hours after my accident to get to an operating table in South Africa,” explained Judd.
According to the actor, a faulty headlamp was partially to blame for the break. It flipped off as she was walking pre-dawn causing her to trip over a fallen tree.
Judd said she recognizes her “privilege” in being able to pay for transportation following her accident.
Judd said she had spent a night “in a hut” in the city of Jolu, before being flown to the capital of Kinshasa to stay for 24 hours. She was eventually brought to South Africa to be treated in an ICU there.
“I’m in a lot of love. I’m in a lot of compassion and I’m in a lot of gratitude,” she said during the Instagram Live session. “I thank everyone for their thoughts and their prayers and their support.”
Judd is raising awareness and working in Congo to make health care and other essential needs a reality by trying to find strategies that improve the lives of those in the most need. Kristof revealed some stats about the dire situation. 8% of children die by the age of 5 in Congo. 67% women and a majority of children are anemic. 1% of women die during pregnancy and childbirth with each additional child increasing the risk. Lastly, only 7.5% of people have access to contraception.
Judd told Kristof that, this particular time in the Congo, she was with her partner, who has a research camp in the area. It’s focused on efforts to protect the endangered Bonobos. She said they visit the Congo often, about twice a year, usually for one month to six weeks at a time.
We are glad to hear that Judd is safe and receiving treatment! We are also pleased that Judd is taking this time as an opportunity to shine the light on the extreme poverty and healthcare needs of the Congolese people.
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