Ashley Judd says 'nights are a savage agony' as she recovers from broken leg after Congo rainforest fall

Elise Solé
·3-min read
Ashley Judd says she has been
Ashley Judd says she has been "loved and helped enormously" in the wake of her accident in the Congo. (Photo: REUTERS/Mario Anzuoni)

In the wake of Ashley Judd's "catastrophic accident" in Congo, during which she nearly lost her leg, the actress considers herself lucky.

"I do not understand why what has happened has happened," the 52-year-old United Nations Goodwill Ambassador wrote on Instagram Saturday, sharing a slideshow of photos. "I do understand I have been loved and helped enormously. I understand nights are a savage agony." Judd thanked medical professionals "for seven hours of intensive, brilliant, inspired surgical work on my bones and nerve" adding, "It took stamina, focus, and humility to consult with some experts around the country, whom I also deeply thank…I loved the sweet spirit of the janitor who cleaned my room, my bright-spot-of-the-day-gal from nutrition, and always, my bright and tender nurses."

Related: Ashley Judd recovering after eight-hour operation on mangled leg

Last month, Judd "tripped over a fallen tree" at 4:30 a.m. in Democratic Republic of the Congo while doing conservation work for bonobos, an endangered primate. The Divergent star, who is the sister of country singer Wynonna Judd, 56, broke her leg in multiple places and suffered nerve damage.

Ashley later told journalist Nicholas Kristof that she experienced an "incredibly harrowing 55 hours," first stranded on the ground while "howling like a wild animal" from pain, for which she had to bite a stick in lieu of medication. She also went into shock and fainted while waiting for help. "Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg," she said in a Feb. 16 Instagram post. Ashley will now need "extensive physical therapy."

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In her Saturday post, Ashley wrote, "Now, I am in the bosom of a stream of friends and family, too numerous to mention, who have caught me in their prodigious arms from this precipitous fall. They do for me what I cannot do for myself — prepare meals, shampoo my hair, and they also offer the deep spiritual direction and consolation of trying to begin to craft an arc of meaning and purpose."

She added, "They also offer and meet my need for quiet. I am lost and they are my shepherd’s staff. To all who have gone before me and walk beside me with physical therapy, I had no idea. Thank you. I am only at beginning and the combination of drowning in trauma and addressing the physical body is a lot. Yet you have done it, and so will I."

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A few weeks ago, Ashley traveled back to the United States and underwent an eight-hour surgery to "repair the bones, decompress the hemorrhaging nerve and pick the shards of bones out of the nerve." She is using a walker for the time being.

This week, Wynonna told Page Six that Ashley had one request of her sister. “I was looking up how to wash hair for someone who’s lying down in bed because she texted me, ‘Can you wash my hair?’” she told the outlet. “Therein lies the job of a big sister right there."

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