SECAUCUS, N.J. (PIX11) – Sandwiched between a pizzeria and a beauty salon in Secaucus, New Jersey, is a humble hospital where the medical team is like none other. You can call them heart specialists because what they repair are life’s tiniest treasures.
Patients come in here with broken limbs and busted heads. The specialists at the Secaucus Doll and Teddy Bear Hospital are quick to diagnose the problem and immediately perform delicate surgery.
Throughout the hospital is a macabre assortment of limbs and porcelain heads and eyeballs to restore the spirit to these lifeless treasures.
The master mender of childhood dreams is 76-year-old Ana Casas who began rehabilitating dolls and teddy bears with her late husband in their native Colombia 37 years ago.
Her daughter, Jeannette Gonzalez, takes pride in her healing abilities. “Its head is broken and I fix it,” she beams. She said it is a very delicate job as she places eyes back in their sockets.
She bursts with pleasure, exclaiming, “When I finish my doll I feel oh so good. It feels incredible that I can do this kind of joy. It’s wonderful.”
Casas gets emotional when she recalls the time she was repairing a vintage teddy from Germany. She found a tiny photograph of a family hidden inside one of the ears. When the woman came to pick it up, Casas showed her the picture and she burst into tears. The photo was hidden from the Nazis in World War II. The woman recognized family members in the picture. The teddy bear survived the Holocaust, but members of the family in that picture did not.
Casas doesn’t take house calls, but people from as far away as Australia know how to find her. Her clients range in age from 5 to 95, and they all love her. “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 a lot higher than the original cost. But you really can’t place 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 I leave, Ana is quick to note, “The best part of this job at this hospital is that nobody dies here, nobody.”