Ashley Judd returns to Congo 1 year after near-fatal accident

Ashley Judd is returning to the Democratic Republic of the Congo nearly one year after her near-fatal accident there.

The actor and humanitarian, 53, shared on social media that she's "feeling ready" to go back after shattering her leg in four places during a catastrophic fall there in February 2021. It took Judd, who was working at a bonobo research camp, 55 hours to get to a hospital and have her leg saved with various surgeries. It took her six months to walk again. But "all that is in the past," she now says.

"Good greetings, 2022," the Norma Jean & Marilyn star posted to Instagram Wednesday. "It is nice to see you, on this, the 11 month anniversary of having broken my leg in four places and paralyzing my foot (not to mention nearly hemorrhaging to death)."″>View this post on Instagram

A post shared by Ashley Judd (@ashley_judd)

Judd, who lives in Tennessee, shared that she recently finished a 25-mile hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park, where the wilderness pro regularly goes on long backcountry camping trips. She also made her annual New Year's trip hiking in the Swiss Alps.

"All this has me feeling ready. For what? Yes. #Congo," she wrote. "I return now. My heart is open and eager. I do not yet know what I will feel, I know only that I will feel, and I am ready to greet the experience with curiosity, wonder, and an abundance of gratitude for every life-saving sister and brother who stroked my face, carried my make shift hammock through the rain forest for hours, wept alongside my agony, or simply laid beside me as I bit a stick while in shock."

Judd continued, "All that is in the past now. What is here, now, is a leg that works (with a wee limp and a some knee stiffness at times), a spirit that won't let anything hold it back, and a desire to show up for the fullness of a beautiful life — and that life includes the endangered, egalitarian bonobos who live free from coercion. And you. Thank you for walking with me. Peace be with you."

Prior to her accident, the United Nations Goodwill Ambassador regularly visited Congo twice a year, for four to six weeks at a time. Her partner, Martin Surbeck, heads a research camp studying the endangered apes. 

Judd was out at 4:30 a.m. with two trackers working, which she said is her normal routine there. Her headlamp wasn't functioning properly and she walked a tree on the path at a "powerful stride," leading to the injury. She spent five hours on the rainforest ground, howling like a "wild animal" and in shock with no pain medication, while one tracker went back to the camp for help. Once help arrived, she had to be carried out in a hammock — a three-hour trip. Getting to the hospital also entailed a six-hour motorbike ride (in which she held together her leg), a bush plane flight and an overnight stay on the floor of a hut. 

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