Amber Escudero-Kontostathis – who turned 28 years old the day lightning struck a park outside the White House on 4 August – sought shelter from the gathering storm under a tree with three others.
Brooks Lambertson, a 29-year-old bank executive in Washington DC on business, and Donna Mueller and James Mueller, a couple celebrating their 56th wedding anniversary, were fatally struck by lightning on the east side of Lafayette Park.
The lightning strike stopped Ms Escudero-Kontostathis’s heart, and two nurses who were visiting the White House on vacation immediately rushed to the scene alongside US Park Police and Secret Service officers to perform CPR and restore her pulse, her brother told The Washington Post.
She was severely burned along the left side of her body and arm where she carried a bag, holding an iPad she used to sign people up for donations, her family told the newspaper.
Over the weekend, “she was able to walk a few steps” and “is in a lot of pain but making progress every day,” according to her family’s GoFundMe fundraiser to help with her medical bills.. “Her short term memory is getting better as well which is great!”
Ms Escudero-Kontostathis, who works for nonprofit refugee advocacy group Threshold Giving and with the International Rescue Committee, is pursuing a master’s degree at John Hopkins University.
“The first thing she told me when we FaceTimed is, ‘I need to get back to work on Saturday,’” her brother Robert Escudero told The Post. “She’s worried about raising money for the refugee kids. She asked me, ‘Who’s going to get the money for them if I’m not out there?’”
On Thursday, Vito Maggiolo, a spokesperson for the Washington DC’s Fire and Emergency Medical Services Department said in a statement that the agency discovered victims with “critical, life threatening” injuries in Lafayette Square across from the White House around 7pm. All were transported to nearby hospitals in critical condition.
Earlier that day, the National Weather Service issued a severe thunderstorm warning with the likelihood of wind gusts up to 60 mph.
Lightning strikes kill roughly 23 Americans every year; the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that nearly 90 per cent of people struck by lightning survive.