That is catharsis, too, and that is what Laureano’s supporters on the project believe After The Cocoon can give to others. About 2,000 people are admitted to hospital for burns each year in Canada; afterwards, some of them find their way to support groups like the Canadian Burn Survivors Society. They mark their “burn dates” like a kind of birthday. They swap stories, and laugh, and nod in understanding the way no-one else really can.
“Burn survivors walk a unique path,” says Barbara-Anne Hodge, an occupational therapist at the Manitoba Firefighters Burn Unit at Health Sciences Centre. “It’s the pain of the burn, it’s the surgeries, it’s the occupational therapy you have to do to regain your mobility. And you’re going to be scarred forever. It’s important that they come together, that they don’t feel alone.”
For years, Hodge has been deeply involved in the Canadian burn community. Today, she is chair of the Manitoba-based Mamingwey Burn Survivors Society; in a happy coincidence of timing, the 100-member group had been yearning to launch a photo project of its own, when Laureano fired off an email that landed in Hodge’s inbox. The occupational therapist was only too thrilled to help connect the student with other burn survivors.
“I said, ‘oh my God, we’ve been waiting for a project like this, and now you come and you’re a photographer and you want to take pictures of people who have been burned?'” Hodge says. “It was amazingly wonderful… Considering she received no support for her scars, and dealt with them alone, I think she’s tremendously courageous.”
Now, with After The Cocoon unveiled — Laureano will hold a formal launch on Saturday, Feb. 9 — Hodge is looking forward to how the website will help share that courage with other survivors. Laureano plans to add more stories, more photographs: each one, Hodge says, will help survivors cross the bridge between before and after.
“Patients will say to me, ‘I’m never going to get my life back,'” Hodge says. “I tell them, ‘nope, you’ll get a new life back.’ This website will help them realize that, and then they can move forward. There’s hope.”
Maria Cristina Laureano will hold a free, public launch for After The Cocoon on Saturday, Feb. 9th at 2 p.m. at the Fire Fighters Museum, located at 56 Maple Street in Winnipeg.
Melissa Martin is arts editor at Spectator Tribune. Email her firstname.lastname@example.org, or follow her on Twitter @doubleemmartin.