Ashley Judd Says She Could've Died During 55-Hour Rescue For Broken Leg

"When I got to South Africa my leg didn’t have a pulse," Judd said of her potentially life-threatening accident and rescue.

Ashley Judd recounted her life-threatening accident in the Congo, one year after shattering her leg in four places and incurring deep nerve damage while on a hike. 

The “Double Jeopardy” actor appeared on Kate Roberts’ “Sex, Body, and Soul” podcast in an episode released on Tuesday and detailed how her rescuers helped execute a harrowing evacuation to get her help. Judd said she would’ve bled to death had one part of her 55-hour rescue been different. 

“I was in hospital in South Africa about nine days. And then I was medevaced to Tennessee,” the entertainer and activist said. “But when I got to South Africa, my leg didn’t have a pulse and I was hemorrhaging. And if I had been medevaced to Europe I would’ve bled to death.” 

“I don’t know how the mind and the body and the soul come together to manage — to endure — the unendurable,” Judd added. “I mean, I bit a stick, I screamed, I howled, I convulsed. I never did pass out — I wished that I could.”

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Judd speaks onstage at the 10th Anniversary of the Women In The World Summit in New York City on April 11, 2019.
Mike Coppola via Getty Images

Judd previously spoke about her “grueling 55-hour odyssey” in an Instagram post that detailed her accident, rescue and her subsequent recovery. 

“Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg,” the actor said alongside a photo that showed two men carrying Judd. “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 said she had to wait for five hours to be rescued from the rainforest floor, where a helper “began to manipulate and adjust my broken bones back into something like a position I could be transported in.” She said she was then carried out in a hammock for another three hours, before beginning a six-hour ride by motorbike with helpers named Didier and Maradona to get to a hospital. 

“I sat facing backwards, [Didier’s] 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,” she wrote.

“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.” 

Nearly six months after her accident, Judd told followers that she was able to walk again, but acknowledged that there was a difference after her accident.

“My leg will never be the same. She is a new leg. And I love her,” she wrote in an Instagram post at the time. “We are buddies. We have a come a long way and we have a fabulous life ahead.” 

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