A woman who survived a freak lightning strike near the White House told The Washington Post it melted her watch to her wrist and burned holes in her body.
Amber Escudero-Kontostathis, 28, was the sole survivor of a lightning strike that hit a tree she was sheltering under in Lafayette Square on August 4 last year.
When a team of paramedics found Escudero-Kontostathis, her skin had turned dark purple and gray and her mouth was locked open, The Post reported.
Three others died: a Wisconsin couple in their 70s and a 29-year-old banker from California.
The powerful lightning strike surged into the tree, down through the ground, and back up all of their bodies, scientists later found, according to The Post. Doctors said it was a miracle she survived.
Escudero-Kontostathis told The Post that she was canvassing for the International Rescue Committee on the day of the lightning strike, which also happened to be her birthday.
Her last memory was watching a storm roll in on what had otherwise been a hot and humid day and then sending her sister-in-law a text that said: “Went from feeling like 105° all day. Now here comes thunder.”
The lightning strike blew up her tablet computer and melted her electronic watch to her wrist. It also stopped her heart and fried her nervous system, the outlet reported.
“I didn’t survive because of a miracle,” she told The Post. “I survived because good people, complete strangers, ran toward danger in the middle of a storm to save me.”
Since then, Escudero-Kontostathis had to learn to walk again and suffers from many strange symptoms including random burning and freezing sensations, itching, and bone aches, The Post reported.
She suffered burns on her stomach and thigh, where her tablet had been pressed up against, and also had huge white wounds on her skin.
The pain of these symptoms, at first, was so bad that she would spend hours screaming. She eventually taught herself to follow each scream with a whisper, “But I’m grateful.”
Over the months, the pain has subsided somewhat and she is able to walk again. However, Escudero-Kontostathis still has painful symptoms and survivor’s guilt.
“I still have no feeling from the lower part of my back to my upper thigh, so I can’t sense where my legs are going,” she told The Post. “It’s like I’m floating on a box on my tailbone. I feel pressure pushing up on the box, but nothing else.”
The chances of being struck by lightning are roughly one in 19,000, according to the National Lightning Safety Council. On average, some 22 people die by lightning strikes in the US every year, the organization said.