SECAUCUS, NJ (PIX11) – Between a pizzeria and a beauty salon in Secaucus, New Jersey, lies a humble hospital where the medical team is unlike any other. You can call them heart specialists because what they repair are the smallest treasures of life.
Patients come here with broken limbs and broken heads. Specialists at Secaucus Doll and Teddy Bear Hospital quickly diagnose the problem and immediately perform delicate surgery.
Throughout the hospital are a macabre assortment of porcelain limbs, heads, and eyeballs to restore the spirits of these lifeless treasures.
The master repairer of childhood dreams is Ana Casas, 76, who started rehabilitating dolls and teddy bears with her late husband in their native Colombia 37 years ago.
Her daughter, Jeannette Gonzalez, is proud of her healing abilities. “His head is broken and I’m fixing it,” she beams. She said it’s very delicate work because she puts the eyes back in their sockets.
She bursts out with pleasure, exclaiming, “When I finish my doll, I feel so good. It’s amazing that I can do this kind of joy. That’s wonderful.”
Casas is moved when she remembers the time she was fixing a vintage stuffed animal from Germany. She found a small photo of a family hidden inside one of the ears. When the woman came to pick him up, Casas showed her the photo and she burst into tears. The photo was hidden from the Nazis during World War II. The woman recognized her family members in the photo. The teddy bear survived the Holocaust, but the family members in this photo did not.
Casas doesn’t take house calls, but people from as far away as Australia know how to find her. His clients are between 5 and 95 years old and they all love him. “Some cry, they hug me, they kiss me and I feel happy to make them happy,” she says.
Often the cost to repair a vintage doll or teddy bear is much higher than the original cost. But you really can’t put a price tag on something as priceless as a doll or teddy bear that brings back so many wonderful memories for children young and old.
Before leaving, Ana is quick to note, “The best part about working in this hospital is that no one dies here, no one.”
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