The lone survivor of a deadly lightning strike outside the White House a few weeks ago is now speaking out about her experience to FOX 5 DC.
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis says she turned 28 years old on the day she was struck. She was supposed to be headed to a birthday dinner. Instead, she tells FOX 5 that her heart stopped more than once.
"That’s what I’ve gained from it. Just really appreciating every moment, every interaction because you really don’t know when it's going to be your last one. And people say that all the time but, wow, could not be more true," she told FOX 5.
The lightning strike killed a 29-year-old bank vice-president from California and an elderly couple from Wisconsin visiting D.C. to celebrate their 56th wedding anniversary.
The 28-year-old says still doesn’t remember everything that happened, such as texting her sister-in-law about the storm beforehand and mentioning a report that warned of thunder.
She is sharing her experience now hoping it will bring more awareness.
Escudero-Kontostathis tells FOX 5 she works as the Director for the International Rescue Committee, a group that helps refugees. In that capacity, Escudero-Kontostathis says she would always be out canvassing at Lafayette Park.
There’s not much there to seek shelter under, so Escudero-Kontostathis says she would regularly go to the trees seeking cover from the sun, rain and snow.
On Aug. 4, Escudero-Kontostathis was one of four people severely injured when lightning hit a tree in the park that the group was standing under for shelter.
Two traveling ER nurses and a Secret Service member immediately jumped in, taking turns doing CPR on Escudero-Kontostathis for 30 to 40 minutes. She said they revived her twice.
The 28-year-old also says according to her doctors, she really should not be able to walk or talk, experiencing that long of a time without oxygen to the brain.
The survivor recently got to meet her heroes.
"There were a lot of tears and just the most incredible people in the world because they literally rushed towards harm. They didn’t know if you know – I had no idea electricity like that, lightning, can move through the ground. I thought if it hit a tree, it would light on fire, you would run," she said.
"It’s just hyper, you know, appreciative I guess, and it makes the slow process of healing really frustrating for me. Because I’m not supposed to be doing a lot of screen time, I’m not allowed to be going to work right now. I have to take time off and take things slow when I’m not used to doing that generally, but with this experience, I just want to go full force and do it all and live it large and hard every day," she added.
FOX 5 asked if she would go back to work and back to Lafayette Park, Escudero-Kontostathis said yes, describing the importance of the work she does educating people about refugees across the world.
The 28-year-old does have a serious recovery process ahead. She described "deep" 2nd degree burns up and down her body. She tells FOX 5 it’s very painful having to scrub the burns with Dial soap and gauze each day to make sure there’s no infection.
Her response right after each time she described a pain or obstacle was, "but I’m alive."