Amber Escudero-Kontostathis is the sole survivor of a deadly lightning strike in Washington, D.C., and despite suffering burns and nerve damage, she is expected to make a full recovery.
Last month, Escudero-Konthosthatis, along with an elderly couple and 29-year-old a businessman, sought refuge under a tree in Lafayette Square outside the White House as a thunderstorm tore through the area.
Multiple lightning bolts struck the tree within a half a second, leaving gashes in the bark that are still visible. The powerful strike was also caught on surveillance camera.
“The next thing I remember is waking up in the burn unit. Because of my Apple watch, I have wrist wounds,” said Escudero-Konthostathis, who was on the way to meet her husband for her birthday dinner when the storm hit.
Alister Martin, MD, MPP, Harvard Medical School Office for Diversity Inclusion and Community Partnership (DICP) Faculty Fellowship awardee, emergency room physician, and White House fellow, was also in the park when the lightning struck.
“She was dead. She had no pulse, she wasn’t breathing.”
“I was leaving work right here from the front of the White House, and I saw and felt the biggest lightning strike I have ever experienced. It was so close that I could almost feel the heat,” Martin said.
Martin joined Secret Service agents and an off-duty nurse as they tended to the victims, including Escudero-Konthosthatis.
“She was dead. She had no pulse, she wasn’t breathing,” Martin said. The first responders managed to get a pulse back after administering CPR and shocking Escuedero with a defibrillator.
Escudero-Konthosthatis was wearing platform sandals with thick rubber soles, which she believes may have helped lessen her injuries. She now uses a walker due to nerve pain and relies on her mother to help care for her second-degree burns.
Martin says Escudero-Konthosthatis is lucky to be alive.
“It’s absolutely amazing. First of all, it’s incredibly rare to be struck by lightning. Second of all, to have survived that struck, is just proof positive that Amber is a walking miracle,” Martin said.