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Oak Park Pastor Survives Lightning Strike

OAK PARK, Ill. (CBS) – As a pastor, Kathy Nolte likes to think she has insight into how quickly the end can come for anyone.

During a thunderstorm on Sunday afternoon, lightning from the heavens literally drove that point home for her. The 57-year-old was hit by a ricocheting bolt of electricity that struck a tree in the 1000 block of Fair Oaks Avenue in Oak Park.

She had been out with members of her Good Shepherd Lutheran Church congregation, walking to help fight hunger. Storm conditions quickly developed.

"The sky was getting worse and worse looking and we were hearing all this thunder in the distance," Nolte told CBS 2's Brad Edwards on Monday.

A group decided to take cover, but she didn't make it.

"The next thing I know, I can tell I'm in a vehicle with emergency people all around me, and they've got electrodes all over me," Nolte says.

Emergency responders asked her if she knew her name.

"I couldn't remember," she says. "What day is it? Not a clue. Every cell in my body aches like crazy."

The lightning that had struck the tree -- leaving a jagged groove in the bark -- had hit her and knocked her unconscious. She was taken to Loyola Medical Center with what fire officials said were non-life-threatening injuries.

Tree Hit By Lightning In Oak Park
Pastor Kathy Nolte of Oak Park was injured Sunday when lightning hit this tree. (CBS)

Nolte, however, has more than a dozen staples in her skull.  She is suffering from a concussion from the fall and must have her heart monitored from the jolt from above.

Make no mistake, though, she is grateful.

"I'm alive," she said.  "Being a pastor, there's a part of me that always thinks about someday I won't be here, and you're really satisfied with just when that comes I hope I'll be ready. But I'm really glad that it didn't happen yesterday."

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