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Actress Ashley Judd thanks the people who saved her life and limb, literally, during a 55-hour rescue following a terrible accident. Dive into the details.

How is Ashley Judd doing after her near-fatal jungle accident?

American actress Ashley Judd shared the story of her fifty-five hour rescue following a near fatal fall while in the Congo rainforest. Without the help of her rescuers, she probably would have either died or lost her leg. Judd is currently in an ICU in South Africa, recovering from shattering her leg in four places. From that bed, she did an interview with The New York Times on Instagram Live.

Between the interview and a post with pictures of her rescue, Ashley Judd thanked the people who helped transport her from the jungle to somewhere she could get help. The entire story is one of survival and people helping each other out that it really warms your heart in a way. Here’s everything to know about what happened over those fifty-five hours for Ashley Judd.

The beginning

Ashley Judd was in the Congo helping to look for Bonobos, an endangered great ape species. While walking through the Congo rainforest, Judd tripped over a fallen tree and ended up shattering her leg in four places. On her Instagram post with pictures of her rescue, she began with: “Friends. Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg.”

She named several locals who helped her, starting with a man named Dieumerci who “stretched out his leg and put it under my grossly misshapen left leg to try to keep it still.” Ashley Judd said that Dieumerci, “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.”

Next, a man named Papa Jean came to help set her leg in order for Ashley Judd to be transported, “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.”

What happened next? 

Once Papa Jean had finished, Ashley Judd was transported for three hours by six men in an improvised hammock to meet with some transport. After she was out of the Congo rainforest, she was placed on a motorbike with two men named Dider & Maradona. She said, “Didier and Maradona: Didier drove the motorbike. I sat facing backwards, his back my backrest.”

Judd continued writing, “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.” 

“Together we did this for 6 hours on an irregular, rutted and pocked dirt road that has gullies for rain run off during the rainy season,” she added. “Maradona was the only person to come forward to volunteer for this task.”

Ashley Judd would then spend a night “in a hut” in the city of Jolu before being transported to South Africa, which is more equipped to handle the major injuries that she had.


Ashley Judd shared her story of the traumatic accident due to an awareness of her privilege. She said that she’s “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.”

She added that “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.” She hopes that her story will inspire people to: 

“Please join us and learn what it is like for much of the world – and how you can help. Bonobos matter. And so do the people in whose ancestral forest they range and the other 25,600,000 Congolese in need of humanitarian assistance.”

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