Pam Elliott doesn't remember the flames or smoke. She can't recall feeling any immediate pain from the third-degree burns that resulted from a fire at her home in 1959. What she does remember is a stranger entering her burning home and whisking her to safety.
The real pain occurred years later in college, when the teasing and tormenting began. She had her heart set on becoming a physician’s assistant, but Elliott was told by medical personnel that her appearance “would instill in patients a deeper fear” of doctors, she told NFPA Journal in 2016. “Honey, what happened to you?” was a common query while she attended Piedmont International University. “That’s when I became acutely aware of my appearance,” says Elliott. “I became an angry, snotty, bitter woman."
After some soul-searching, Elliott discovered a newfound purpose and has learned to embrace her injuries and life's path. She's now a registered nurse and offers her support to burn survivors nationwide. This year, the Phoenix Society for Burn Survivors honored her with its Advocacy Award, which recognizes individuals whose actions have brought greater awareness to the burn community.
Elliott has also been a vocal advocate for home fire sprinklers in North America; last month she shared her story at British Columbia's first residential sprinkler summit in February and has lobbied legislators to pass sprinkler requirements.
NFPA's Fire Sprinkler Initiative team congratulates Elliott on her accolade. Check out the "survivor stories" section of our website for more inspirational stories of those impacted by home fire.