On Tuesday, Ashley Judd shared much more detail — along with a gallery of photos — from her harrowing experience after suffering a shattered leg in the Congolese jungle last week. Specifically, she spoke of the locals who helped her through the ordeal. Without them she wrote, “My internal bleeding would have likely killed me.”
She revealed that, as she lay in agony on the forest floor, 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. Dieumerci (“Thanks be to God”) remained seated, without fidgeting or flinching, for 5 hours on the rain forest floor.”
The actress then recalled a scene that seemed straight out of a survival movie. After searching for her for 5 hours, another local man named Papa Jean gave her a stick to bite on, then went about readjusting the shattered pieces of her leg.
“It took 5 hours, but eventually he found me, wretched and wild on the ground, and calmly assessed my broken leg. He told me what he had to do. I bit a stick. I held onto Maud. 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. He saved me.”
A group of men then improvised a hammock and spent three hours gingerly carrying Judd through the forest to the nearest transportation.
Then a heroic friend — appropriately named Maradona — volunteered to ride with the failing actress for six hours on a motorbike, keeping her from falling off and holding her shattered foot in place.
“Didier drove the motorbike. I sat facing backwards, his back my backrest. 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. Maradona was the only person to come forward to volunteer for this task.”
The actress previously recalled fading in and out of consciousness as she went into shock, repeatedly reciting “the Lord is my shepherd I shall not want” from Psalm 23.
“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 says, adding that villages in Congo lack not only electricity but “a simple pill to kill the pain when you’ve shattered a leg in four places and have nerve damage.”
Judd wrote that she decided to speak out about the accident to spread the word about “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 actress says now, from her hospital bed in South Africa, “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.”