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Ashley Judd: I would have died or lost leg without African rainforest ‘heroes’

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Actress Ashley Judd has said she might have died or lost her leg without the help of locals who came to her aid when she suffered serious injuries in a fall in the African rainforest.

The Hollywood star, best known for films including Heat and Double Jeopardy, said she broke her leg in four places and suffered nerve damage in the incident in the Democratic Republic of the Congo.

Sharing pictures and a lengthy post on social media, Judd, 52, said she spent five hours “in primal pain” on the rainforest floor before having her bones manipulated back into a position so she could be moved. She was then carried for three hours to a dirt road before being transported on a motorbike for six hours.

The actress had travelled to the country to take part in a research camp looking into bonobo apes.

“Friends. Without my Congolese brothers and sisters, my internal bleeding would have likely killed me, and I would have lost my leg,” she said in her Instagram post.

“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.”

Describing those who helped her as “heroes”, Judd praised helpers named Dieumerci and Papa Jean, who comforted her and treated her in the immediate aftermath.

Two men called Didier and Maradona also helped her to safety, she said.

“Didier drove the motorbike,” she wrote. “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.

Ashley Judd speaks at the Milken Institute's 21st Global Conference in Beverly Hills, California in 2018
Image: Judd is best known for films including Heat and Double Jeopardy

“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.”

Judd also thanked the women who helped her and said: “The women! My sisters who held me. They blessed me.”

In a previous post, the star described herself as “a woman of the wilderness” but said that “accidents do happen”.

Judd is known for her work in films and TV, and as an activist. She was also one of the first women to publicly accuse disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of sexual misconduct.

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