White House lightning strike survivor details painful recovery after 950M volts stopped her heart
Survivor of Fatal Lightning Strike Recalls Recovery Journey
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was the lone survivor of a lightning strike that killed three people near the White House last summer. On August 4, 2022, Escudero-Kontostathis and three others sought shelter under a tree in Lafayette Square park when a lightning bolt hit the tree, sending nearly a billion volts of electricity through their bodies. Escudero-Kontostathis’s heart stopped twice, and she was declared dead for 13 minutes until a doctor from the White House and two ER nurses on vacation administered CPR.
Escudero-Kontostathis went through a long and painful road to recovery. Her nerves were fried, and her body incurred burns and massive holes, including melting her skin where her watch and electronic tablet were. Months after the incident, she still experiences pain, discomfort, and emotional stress, including survivor guilt and anxiety. Nevertheless, Escudero-Kontostathis holds onto the memories of the other victims and perseveres through physical therapy, taking a long list of medications, and remaining uncertain about living a pain-free life.
Despite these challenges, Escudero-Kontostathis returned to her studies at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies a few weeks after her hospital release. She completed her first semester using a walker but entered her second without it. Escudero-Kontostathis wants to focus on what she’s supposed to do, even if she experiences uncomfortable sensations and moments of despair.
How did the lightning strike happen?
Four people, including Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, sought shelter under a tree in Lafayette Square Park when a lightning bolt struck the tree, sending nearly a billion volts of electricity through their bodies. Three of them, including Brooks Lambertson, Donna Mueller, and James Mueller, lost their lives while Escudero-Kontostathis’s heart stopped twice and she was declared dead for 13 minutes.
How did Amber Escudero-Kontostathis recover?
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis’s nerves were fried, and her body had burns and massive holes from the lightning’s impact. She had to relearn to walk, using a walker for some months, and take three-hour showers to prevent infections. She still experiences pain, discomfort, and emotional stress, including survivor guilt and anxiety, but perseveres through physical therapy, medications, and uncertainty over a pain-free life.
What happened to the other victims’ memories?
After the lightning strike, Amber Escudero-Kontostathis spoke to people who knew each of the victims so that she could “carry them with [her].” Escudero-Kontostathis holds onto their memories when she experiences pain and discomfort, and emotionally battles with survivor guilt and anxiety.
How did Amber Escudero-Kontostathis return to school?
Only three weeks after her hospital release, Amber Escudero-Kontostathis returned to Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies with a walker. She completed her first semester and started her second without it. Escudero-Kontostathis wants to focus on her studies and move past her past experiences, even if she experiences uncomfortable sensations and moments of despair.
Survivor of White House Lightning Strike Shares Experience of Agonizing Recovery Following Cardiac Arrest Caused by 950 Million Volts.
Last August, three people lost their lives after being struck by lightning near the White House. But one survivor, Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, has revealed the long and difficult road she has been on since the bolt stopped her heart for 13 minutes. Running for cover under a tree in Lafayette Square park with three others when rain began to pour down, the group was hit by a lightning bolt that sent 950 million volts of electricity through their bodies. Despite being the only survivor, the fundraiser was left with serious injuries, including burnt nerve endings and skin, and had to re-learn how to walk. She has also suffered from daily pain and emotional trauma since the incident. Escudero-Kontostathis revealed that she speaks to people who knew the deceased so that she can “carry them with [her]” as a way to ease her survivor guilt. The incident was witnessed by Secret Service agents who were the first to the scene, as well as a doctor from the White House and two ER nurses who were visiting the city on vacation. These three individuals were able to administer CPR, resuscitate Escudero-Kontostathis and revive her after her heart stopped for a second time. Despite her injuries, Escudero-Kontostathis began a graduate program at Johns Hopkins University’s School of Advanced International Studies just three weeks after leaving hospital.