BROKEN ARMS. Broken legs. Psoriasis. Dermatitis. Baldness. Anorexia nervosa. Elephantitis.
Yes, it sounds perfectly terrifying. But one must face it. Illness can strike any time. Few of us are prepared for all its consequences: costly surgery, long weeks away from home, shattered nerves.
It's just a good thing there are still general practitioners around who believe, as Judith Turner does, that "anything can be fixed."
Turner is chief surgeon at The Doll Shoppe in McLean. At any one time she may have 150 patients, all of them dolls in varying states of ill health.
The Doll Shoppe is one of serveral area clinics where Raggedy Ann can go for her face lift, where Raggedy Andy can have his rug permed and where Humpty Dumpty is put back together again. The pace may not be as fast as that of the local emergency room, but the cases are straight out of Marcus Welby.
Composition doll. Female. Diagnosis: arms, legs, face, badly pitted. Nose fallen off. Toes missing. Eyes broken. Prognosis: Good. Recommend surgery to fill pits, shape new nose, replace eyes and missing extremities. Sand smooth again, repaing, restring.
For Turber, and other miracle healers like her, it's all in a day's work. But for the anxious relatives, it can be sheer trauma.
Turner recalls a little boy with a broken teddy bear. A simple case of stitching and stuffing, but...
"He was young enough to love his teddy bear," Turner says, "but too old to cry. You could see he didn't want to cry. But the trars were welling up in his eyes. I told him, 'Don't worry. Your bear is going to be very happy. I'm going to take him home where he'll be with lots of other sick dolls.' Well, that's not what he wanted to hear. He ran to his mother and pulled on her skirt and said (tearfully), 'Mommy! She's going to take him hom with her!'"
There are othr cases that cannot be repeated because the doctor-patient relationship is supposed to be kept secret. But professional people -- lawyers, for instance -- are known to become hysterical when their bean-bag doll -- the one that sat on the desk during board examinations -- is losing its beans.
The doll doctor must have tact and diplomacy in reserve for the in-laws as well as for the distraught next-kin.
For some it is hard to supress a giggle when they first walk into The Doll Shoppe, a small affair stacked high with dolls of all sizes, shapes and nationalities at the Evans Farm Inn. Turner keeps boxes full of doll bodies, arms and legs, and drawers packed with hands, feet, eyes an wigs. Each is worth a little snigger.
But for others, dolls are anything but funny.
"Doll collecting is a big business," said Elaine Buser, owner of the Humpty Dumpty Doll Hospital in Chevy Chase.
Buser is one professional doll restorer recommended by the Washington Dolls' House and Toy museum. She specializes in Schoenhut dolls manufactured by the Philadelphia toy company of that name between 1872-1935. The Schoenhut dolls, and the other antique dolls Buser works with, are collectors items. Some are valued in the hundreds of dollars.
Perhaps on the coattails of antique furniture, paintings and other Americana, dolls have increased in valre rapidly and the collectors of them are serious. There are doll clubs, dool shows and doll specialists. It is a close-knit group that demands perdection. A few slip-ups and the professional repairman would soon find his reputation -- and his business -- worth so much sawdust.
The Schoenhut dolls are wooden, made with exacting carftsmanship and vulnerable to the ravages of changing temperatures and humidity. Sometimes they are found in an old attic, tucked away under the eaves, in a trunk unopened perhaps for decades. The object, even when the doll appears hopelessly deteriorated, is to restore it to original condition.
For the serious collector (Buser receives dolls for repair from collectors all over the world) "original" means just as the doll looked when it was new. That includes the same expression on the doll's face, the same eyes, the same hair, period clothes and the right colors.
"Schoenhut may have made the same doll for 10 years, but with different colors each year," Buser said. She must duplicate, as nearly as possible, colors from paints that no longer exist. "Some people ask how I know what kind of eyes a certain doll had. You just have to know."
The most common repair is restringing a doll, which requires taking it apart and joining together the arms, legs and head with new doll elastic. But other repairs, like those to rare musical instruments, involve a master touch with a wood-carving tool, or a delicate hand with the brush. The cost can run into hundreds of dollars.
"One thing I will not do," said Buser, who recently published a guide to Schoenhut dolls and toys with husband, Dan Buser, "is cover up a repair so that it cannot be detected later."
Before the owner receives a dool from Buser's repair shop, he sees it without clothing and sans wig. thus there is no hiding hairline fractures in porcelain (which are oterwise easily concealed under a collar) and no scrimping on repairs to stitching, (which might easily go unnoticed beneath doll undies).
Baby Dimple's brain surgery may seem hardly the time to talk business.But you should gird up for matters such as malpractice insurance. And there's no harm at all, when the diagnosis seems too horrible to mention, in seeking second opinions.
Buser says whether it is for a $2 rewigging, or for complete restoration of an heirloom French porcelain, go some place recommended by a person you trust. If you are new to doll doctoring, the local doll museum will direct you to the right craftsman.
And isn't it worth it when, once again, she's looking swell, Dolley. You can tell, Dolley. She's back where she belongs.