Doll hospital offers emergency surgeries, adoptions

Jessica Young

An 8-year-old boy rushed his best buddy to the ER. The friend was losing blood quickly.

After filling out the proper forms at the admission desk, the devastated child listened closely as the surgeon, clothed in scrubs, delivered the prognosis.

“Snakey, the little boy’s favorite stuffed animal, came in with some wounds and was leaking sand. I promised that he was in good hands and would be just fine,” said Angel Whitt, chief resident and owner of Angelic Creations Doll Hospital in Naperville. “There were little Band-Aids over the holes in the snake’s body, and the family told us his classmates were praying for his recovery. We couldn’t let him down.

“The kids who come to us looking for help are so desperate. They’re crying, begging us to ‘Please help my Becky!’” she said. “Dolls and stuffed animals are like a member of the family to them. So we drop everything to tend to their injuries and tell the kids to go out to lunch or go shopping with Mom while we take care of their friend. It’s too traumatic for them to watch the procedures.”

Ruth Nast, the hospital’s triage nurse, said a quick turnaround time for patients at Angelic Creations is crucial.

“A lot of these kids can’t sleep without the doll or animal,” said Nast of Downers Grove.

But the authentic hospital environment is what really sets kids at ease, staffers say.

“Each patient gets a bracelet with the owner’s name and a claim number on it that has to match the medical file,” said Jan Brummel, Angelic Creations co-coordinator and Batavia resident. “We function pretty much like a real hospital, and that’s reassuring to the young ones. Plus, we tell them we’ve never lost a patient yet.”

But business is not always grave. Like a real medical facility, there’s also a nursery ward. Behind a Plexiglas wall, babies are tucked into individual bassinets, awaiting a mommy or daddy to take them home.

“There’s an empty bed with a sign that reads ‘Waiting for a delivery from the stork,’” said Pat Kuiper, a doll seamstress and Wheaton resident. “We even play a recording of babies cooing. You actually have to stop yourself from going in and comforting the infants. It’s a total riot.”

The adoption center, which had its grand opening last month, has a selection of Middleton Dolls. The line is a particularly realistic doll design that’s weighted, jointed, sculpted and dressed like a real infant.

Kids come in and are asked to complete adoption applications asking questions that teach parenting skills like “Do you promise to love and care for your new baby? Will you change his or her diapers? Will you sing baby to sleep if he or she is upset or rock him or her when they’re crying? Will you take baby on special outings?” Then they can hold several newborns to find the baby that feels just right in their arms and choose the sex of the baby, and hair and eye color.

“It’s a family affair, and we put pink and blue hospital gowns on the mommy-to-be and any parents or grandparents who come in with her,” Whitt said. “We lay the baby on the exam table and count fingers and toes, we look in the ears and the child taps the baby’s knee and I make it kick. I use a real stethoscope and thump the doll’s back to make it sound like a heartbeat.”

Once the newborn is handed over, the on-duty nurse takes a photo of the beaming parent with the baby and issues an official-looking birth certificate.

“It’s so important for children to learn love, compassion, responsibility,” Whitt added. “Dolls help foster and develop that maternal instinct. So we give the kids paperwork to teach them how to care for the babies and when they’re due for check-ups.”

For any playtime friends that need a little medical — or cosmetic — attention, there’s someone on staff to patch them up. Whitt gives surgical quotes for missing or broken limbs, snapped off heads, faulty eyes and core restringing.

“People will spend $200 fixing up a $5 doll from Kmart because of the sentimental value,” she said. “We do repairs, from dog damage where the family pet chewed off feet or fingers, and can remove nail polish from a girl’s misguided attempt at a manicure.

"But sometimes those are the things that preserve memories, and owners request we only do routine maintenance.”

Toni Brown of Downers Grove, the hospital’s resident hairstylist, works miracles on synthetic wigs, mohair and human hair.

“I restyle according to the period for the doll. First thing, I usually brush all the tangles out and see what I’ve got to work with,” she said. “Sometimes it’s a matter of just gluing part of the wig back down. If the hair is ratty, I may trim the ends off or even out the bangs if a kid ripped out a chunk of hair.”

If the wig can be washed, Brown will give the doll a salon-style cleaning with a special concoction. Then it’s time for curlers, bobby pins, clips and ribbons. Once the styling is done, the doll is returned to its owner with a hairnet to preserve the ‘do in case a change of clothes is necessary.

While Brown does damage control on the doll’s hair, Kuiper is diligently fixing up the wardrobe. She hand launders and presses the delicate fabrics, sewing up holes and adding antique lace for trim where necessary. Kuiper also replaces buttons and hooks, fixes collars and hems that may have raveled over time or with a tumble in the washing machine.

Amy Shuter, a dress designer from Naperville, can dress dolls in vintage or custommade clothes. Younger girls serve as candy stripers and student nurses, administering to the needs of any patients.

“Angelic Creations is one in a million — it’s cute as all get out,” Brown said. “I just think it’s a magical place. It feels like you’re in a Grimm’s fairy tale.”

At a glance:

Angelic Creations Hospital

The Big Pink House

816 N. Washington St.

Naperville

(630) 369-2522

angelicascreations.tripod.com

whittville@sbcglobal.net

About owner Angel Whitt:

- International award-winning doll artist

- Received a Doll Master & Doll Doctor degree from the Doll Artisan School of Doll Making in New York

- Started a doll-making studio in her Naperville home in 1981, expanding to the Big Pink House location 26 years ago

Suburban Life