As the National Burn Awareness Week campaign comes to a close, we remember and honor Alan Breslau, the founder of the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, who passed away in New Zealand over the holidays at the age of 94.
Alan was a remarkable man, and he understood what it meant to suffer burn injuries. In 1963, when he was 37, Alan was in a plane crash while on a business trip. Of the 43 people onboard, seven died and 36 were injured, Alan lost his nose, an ear, an eye, the top of his head, a thumb, and some of his fingers to severe burns. The lack of support and isolation during his early recovery drove him to change the world for burn survivors and create a community of survivors, caretakers, first responders, medical professionals, researchers, and others that now spans the globe.
In 1977, Alan created the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors, inspired by the mythical bird that rises out of flames in a more beautiful form. He worked to establish the first burn camp for children in Pennsylvania, and he created a program to bring people with burn injuries from developing countries to the US for care at no cost.
Family, friends, and colleagues of Alan knew that a plane crash would not stop him from doing all the things he loved. In addition to his training as a chemical engineer, Alan was an accomplished musician. He not only inspired a whole new way of living for burn survivors, they say, but he did so while continuing to play the piano, write books, play tennis, and pursue all the other passions he enjoyed. Alan strongly believed that some good would come of his tragedy.
Today, the Phoenix Society is recognized around the world as the leading organization for burn support, prevention, and advocacy. NFPA supports the Phoenix Society and its wonderful work, including its annual World Burn Congress, which Alan established in 1988. If you weren’t aware, NFPA collaborated with the Phoenix Society on the launch of the Faces of Fire public awareness and advocacy campaigns, aimed at reducing loss from fire and electrical injuries.
We remember Alan for his amazing strength and compassion, and for his tireless efforts on behalf of burn survivors around the world. We will honor him by continuing to carry forward the work he began.
Learn more about Alan Breslau and the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors on their website.