Ashley Judd makes 22-hour trek back to U.S. for surgery after nearly losing leg in Congo rainforest fall

Suzy Byrne
·Editor, Yahoo Entertainment
·4-min read

Ashley Judd is back in the United States after nearly losing her leg in a Congo rainforest fall.

The Divergent and A Time to Kill actress, 52, shared an update after leaving the South Africa hospital where she was initially treated for her broken leg — which had "no pulse" when she arrived at the facility — and traveling 22 hours back to the states. The Tennessee-based star, whose leg was broken in four places with major tissue and nerve damage rendering it "lame," has since undergone an eight-hour surgery. She's also taken her first steps with the assistance of a walker, as she still can't move the limb.

Judd, who traveled a grueling 55 hours from the site of the accident in Democratic Republic of the Congo to the South African hospital, where she was for 10 days, "then made the 22 hour — 4 flights — to America" via an Air Ambulance" back to the U.S.

At the U.S. hospital, "I had to continue to wait for the tissue damage and swelling to reduce," she wrote. "Eventually I was qualified to have the 8-hour surgery to repair the bones, decompress the hemorrhaging nerve and pick the shards of bones out of the nerve. I am now recovering from surgery."

(Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)
Judd having her leg stabilized with the external fixator in South Africa. (Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)

She shared, "I am up and around already," with the help of a walker. Judd, whose leg is still lame, previously said she had no timeline for when she'll be able to walk again on her own.

The star went on to express thanks to those involved in her treatment.

"I want to give my deepest and most vulnerable thanks to Sunninghill Hospital in Johannesburg, South Africa, for making split second decisions upon my arrival," she wrote, along with a video of the nurses there "I arrived to them from DRC in terrible shape and my leg had no pulse. I desperately needed a blood transfusion. Their sisters (nurses) are exemplary, technically top notch, and they cared for the trauma in my body as well as my soul with equal proficiency. Pictured here, once I was stable, is carefree laughter and mirth."

She also thanked "all of the experts," including Dr. Eugene Greeff, the orthopedic surgeon who "was super at stabilizing my leg with the external fixator until the massive soft tissue damage and swelling went down so that I could have the big operation [in the U.S.]. What he did was significant and I am forever in his debt. It must be noted I was being cared for during the Covid B.1.351 strain that is plaguing RSA. Sunninghill is world class and a wonder. Thank you to my trauma surgeon, anesthesiologist, head of nursing, hospital management — everyone."

The rest was a tribute to her "beloved dad," Michael Ciminella, "who had gotten the text no parent ever wants: 'emergency, can't answer questions, please come now'" and was able to fly to South Africa "because he is vaccinated."

Judd, daughter of Naomi Judd, said Ciminella "has been my rock, companion, resource, helped me listen to so many doctors, critical support system, and kind, loving presence as I have wept and wept." She said he has also been "rubbing my foot to remind my foot while it still cannot move that it is connected to my body."

(Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)
Judd's dad has been by her side since she arrived in South Africa. (Screenshot: Ashley Judd via Instagram)

The United Nations Goodwill Ambassador added, "Let us always remember those without insurance. Let us remember those who do have choices. Let us remember those who are lonely and afraid."

Judd’s ex-husband, retired race car driver Dario Franchitti, was among those to react to her post, putting three flexed biceps emojis and two “x” kisses.

The star first revealed on Feb. 12 that she had been in a "catastrophic accident" while doing bonobo conservation work in a remote area of DRC. (Her "life partner" runs a bonobo research camp there.) It took 55 hours — including six hours on a motorbike while holding her leg together with her hands and a flight on a bush plane — to get her to the hospital. She had no pain medication, biting into a stick to try to manage pain.

Judd, who is a wilderness pro and visits the Congo twice a year for four- to six-week stints working with the apes, previously said, "It's going to take some time for [the] nerve to heal. And there's going to be intensive physical therapy. ... Of course, I will walk again because I'm determined and I believe in modern science and I also believe in miracles. But there's not really a time frame for [recovery]. I have a journey ahead of me."

Read more from Yahoo Entertainment: