The 52-year-old actress detailed her experience during a conversation on Instagram Live with New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof. Judd was visiting the Congo region of Africa with a team of researchers to examine bonobo apes and took a nasty fall while walking through the rainforest in the early morning.
“I was doing what I always do, [got] up at 4:30 in the morning with two of our trackers … My headlamp had new batteries but it was a little faint, it wasn’t working quite properly,” Judd explained from her hospital bed. “Accidents happen and there was a fallen tree on the path, which I didn’t see. I had a very powerful stride going and I just fell over this tree.”
The All That is Bitter and Sweet author said that she could tell that her leg was breaking as she fell to the ground and called out to one of the people walking with her for help.
“What was next was an incredibly harrowing 55 hours,” she continued. “It started with five hours of lying on the forest floor with [one of the tracker’s] leg under my badly misshapen leg. [I’m] biting my stick, howling like a wild animal. … Knowing that this is the beginning of what’s going to take hours.”
As she was lying on the ground, Judd “was going into shock” while one of her companions tried to reset the bone in her leg. She then spent “an hour and a half in a hammock, being carried out of the rainforest by my Congolese brothers, who were doing it barefoot, up and over hills, through the river” before taking a six-hour motorcycle ride to get to a safe destination. Judd slept “in a hut” overnight until she was eventually able to be flown to South Africa to be treated at a hospital.
By sharing her story, the Divergent actress hopes to raise awareness for those who don’t have the same “privilege” she had at that moment.
“The difference between a Congolese person and me is disaster insurance that allowed me 55 hours after my accident to get to an operating table in South Africa,” she explained, adding that the Congo is “not equipped” to deal with such a dire medical disaster. “We’re talking about not just a lack of electricity … but a lack of a simple pill to kill the pain when you’ve shattered a leg in four places and have nerve damage.”
Despite the intense pain and frightening circumstances, Judd appeared to be in high spirits. “I’m in a lot of love. I’m in a lot of compassion and I’m in a lot of gratitude,” the Golden Globe nominee said when asked how the healing process was going. “I thank everyone for their thoughts and their prayers and their support.”