WASHINGTON — Amber Escudero-Kontostathis was one of four people hit by an intense lightning strike outside the White House earlier this month. She was the only survivor.
Nearly two weeks after the incident at Lafayette Square, Escudero-Kontostathis says her recovery has been painful but she is doing remarkably well despite what she endured.
She must use a walker due to the needling pain in her lower body and is covered with bandages on the left side of her body from the severe burns.
"According to the doctors, this is the fastest they've seen anyone recover from something like this," Escudero-Kontostathis told WUSA9. "On top of the ICU nurses and the burn care, they kept looking at me because it doesn't make sense."
The 28-year-old said six bolts of lightning within half a second struck her and three other people when they were underneath a tree. The elderly couple, James and Donna Mueller of Wisconsin, and 29-year-old Brooks Lambertson of Los Angeles died from their injuries.
In a strange revelation, Escudero-Kontostathis turned out to have mutual friends with Lambertson. Both are from California but had never met each other before.
"I'm not sure why I'm the one that made it," she said. "I definitely have survivors' guilt because if I were to be this lucky, I feel everyone should be."
She was canvassing the park for Threshold Giving, a grassroots organization that fundraisers for nonprofits like the IRC and the Humane Society. Because of her work, she connected with the elderly couple before they were hit.
She does not recall the moment of impact.
"I don't remember and I'm glad I don't remember," she added.
While she likes to think that her thick rubber shoes made have helped, the biggest credit goes to the first responders, U.S. Secret Service officer and hospital staff who kept her from dying.
She recently reunited with Jessee Bonty and Nolan Haggard, the traveling nurses visiting the park who jumped into action as soon as they heard people were injured.
"They went sprinting towards where we were and immediately started providing chest compressions and CPR," she said. "They literally brought me back twice, no heartbeat, brought it back, nothing, 10 minutes plus and then they brought me back."
It took up to 40 minutes to resuscitate her.
While recovery has been a tough journey so far, she said gratitude is what helps get her through the tough moments.
She looks forward to going back to her job and the opportunity to meet the rest of the people involved in helping her.
"When I'm crying in pain I'm constantly reminding myself that I'm lucky," Escudero-Kontostathis said. "Without people like that there is no amazing miracle story, they're the miracle makers so I want to make sure they get the attention they deserve."