The Healing Touch

Burning. Of the species of physical pain, it is the one most often pressed into metaphorical service (lovers' hearts, souls in hell ... ) precisely because it is the most intense and enduring. We've all singed a finger on a pot or scalded ourselves with hot coffee. Those are usually first-degree burns; the pain of third-degree burns over most of one's body must be literally inconceivable. And the outcome-serious disfigurement for the rest of one's life-is also unthinkable.

Photographer Lynn Johnson spent nearly four years documenting the work of the burn center at West Penn Hospital in Pittsburgh, which admitted nearly 400 people in 1991, some for as long as nine months. She found the plight of the children particularly moving. "They must learn a whole new way to look at themselves," says the center's director, Dr. Harvey Slater. "There's no way to tell them it's OK, or that no one will notice that their ears are burned off. We do the beat we can."