Woman, 28, who survived White House lightning strike reveals how 950M volts fried her


A charity worker who survived a 950 million volt lightning strike opposite the White House that killed three others has spoken out about her horrific injuries – and grueling road to recovery.  

Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, 28, was in Washington DC for her birthday when six bolts of lightning hammered the spot she was standing on in the space of half a second, giving out an electrical output of roughly 950 million volts.

The freak weather event on August 4 fried her nerves, melted her watch to her wrist, and stopped her heart – and her recovery has also been marred with chronic pain and survivor’s guilt.  

The strike killed Brooks Lambertson, 29, a Vice President at City National Bank, and James and Donna Mueller, 76 and 75, who were visiting the capital for their 56th wedding anniversary. 

Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, 28, was in Washington DC for her birthday when six bolts of lightning hammered the spot she was standing on in the space of half a second, giving out an electrical output of roughly 950 million volts

Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, 28, was in Washington DC for her birthday when six bolts of lightning hammered the spot she was standing on in the space of half a second, giving out an electrical output of roughly 950 million volts

Escudero-Kontostathis (pictured) had been planning on celebrating her 28th birthday on the day of the strike, and was waiting for her husband to pick her up to go out for dinner

Escudero-Kontostathis (pictured) had been planning on celebrating her 28th birthday on the day of the strike, and was waiting for her husband to pick her up to go out for dinner

The group hid under a tree during a summer storm, which was subsequently hit by a bolt and flash of lightning that was caught on camera. 

Amber survived, but suffered appalling injuries which left her using a walker. She was forced to take three hour showers to soothe her wounds – but would still scream with pain throughout.  

Speaking about her recovery, Amber told the Washington Post: ‘Everyone’s been optimistic. But I just want to know if any of my nerves are, like, dead-dead. Like not coming back. Is there any way to test that?’ 

When she watched a clip of the first responders giving her CPR at the scene, she said: ‘They were putting so much force on me. They were practically jumping on my chest.’

Without watching the videos, she said she has no recollection of what happened. 

When they started resuscitating her, Amber recovered just long enough to squeeze one nurse’s hand and lock eyes with an agent – but her heart stopped again for 13 minutes.  

And talking about her painstaking recovery, she added: ‘Whatever I’m experiencing that day, however much pain I’m in, I try to hold on to the fact that I’m the lucky one.

Her iPad, which had been sitting near her stomach during the strike, exploded - causing severe burns on that area of her body

Her iPad, which had been sitting near her stomach during the strike, exploded – causing severe burns on that area of her body

Five months into her recovery, she told her doctors that she was experiencing bewildering sensations thanks to the way that the intense lightening strike had affected her nervous system

Five months into her recovery, she told her doctors that she was experiencing bewildering sensations thanks to the way that the intense lightening strike had affected her nervous system

First responders are seen giving Amber compressions at the scene of the lightning strike

First responders are seen giving Amber compressions at the scene of the lightning strike

‘The one who gets to feel anything at all.

‘I didn’t survive because of a miracle. I survived because good people, complete strangers, ran toward danger in the middle of a storm to save me.’

Amber said that her injuries were so intense, and her pain was so great, that in the first few weeks after the event she would spend hours just simply screaming.

But after a while, she would follow each scream with a whisper: ‘But I’m grateful.’  

Nearly a year after the event, Amber revealed she still has no feeling from the lower part of her back to her upper thigh and she can’t sense where her legs are going.

She said: ‘It’s like I’m floating on a box on my tailbone. I feel pressure pushing up on the box, but nothing else.’ 

Five months into her recovery, she told her doctors that she was experiencing bewildering sensations thanks to the way that the intense lightening strike had affected her nervous system.

She told them she felt a ‘grinding pain, like sand grains’ that were trying to squeeze through the pores of her skin. 

Amber experienced consistent hot and cold feelings – with the sensations of burning and freezing striking at random times of the day. She felt piercing needles in her toenails, bruising bone aches, and a twisting in her right foot.

Brooks Lambertson, 29, was killed by the lightening strike

James and Donna Mueller, 76 and 75, who were visiting the capital for their 56th wedding anniversary were also killed by the bolt

Brooks Lambertson, 29, and James and Donna Mueller, 76 and 75, were all killed by the lightening strike in DC on August 4

She said it felt as if a mechanical gear was spinning inside her ankle – the direct point where the initial split-second lightening strike entered her body. 

Her iPad, which had been sitting near her stomach during the strike, exploded – causing severe burns on that area of her body. 

In the early days, she would have to sit in the shower for three hours every day to scrub the wounds to avoid infection. 

And on her chest, the lightning left intricate red marks which have been likened to the roots of a tree, marking the intricate system of veins and arteries in her body. 

She said she was waiting for her husband to pick her up so they could celebrate her birthday as she canvassed near at Lafayette Square for non-profit Threshold Giving. 

Last year, the charity worker said she thought her shoes may have been the decisive factor in her survival as they were platform sandals with large rubber soles made by Doc Martens. 

Still, the flash of lightning traveled through the ground and shocked her body, resulting in her being rushed to hospital in critical condition as she struggled to breathe and suffered from severe burns. 



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