Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On the Assumption That We Needed to Fix Them

Magazine article The Exceptional Parent

On the Assumption That We Needed to Fix Them

Article excerpt

There are over 5,700 hospitals in the United States, and the best one sadly closed down.

Granted, this one never made it to the "official" list of the 100 Best Hospitals in the U.S. that is promoted by several national magazines, but it's hard to dispute its standing.

It didn't close down for lack of patients; patients came from all over the world for treatment. It closed down due to losing its stellar surgeon, who sadly passed away at age 83 in early May of this year.

Irving Chais told The New York Times in 1990, "We've been in business since 1900 and never lost a patient yet." Chais was the owner and chief surgeon of the New York Doll Hospital where he repaired dolls for children, collectors, museums, and dealers.

Dennis Hevesi in The New York Times said, "Irving Chais spent 45 years as the owner and chief surgeon of the New York Doll Hospital in Manhattan where he reattached thousands of heads, arms and legs; reimplanted fake hair shorn by scissor-wielding toddlers; and soothed the feelings of countless doll lovers, young and old."

In his cluttered workshop, he had boxes labeled hands, fingers, wrists, wigs, German eyes, French eyes, American eyes. None of the boxes contained hearts or souls; those were supplied by their owners.

Some of the "patients" have been in the same family for five and six generations. Playing with dolls has been part of the human experience since prehistoric times. Dolls have often been found in Egyptian graves dating back to 2,000 B.C., leading experts to believe that they were cherished possessions. For centuries, rag dolls were made by mothers for their children.

Dolls play a key role in a child's early exposure to the joys of caring, connecting, and parenting. Young girls mimic their parents in dressing them, grooming them, rocking them. and embracing them. Child developmental psychologists believe these early experiences help prepare young girls to embrace their eventual role as real parents.

When I teach students (medical, dental, special education, counseling, and even engineering) about the challenges experienced by parents caring for children with disabilities and special healthcare needs, I often ask the question, "When do you think the stress of being an exceptional parent begins?" Do they think it begins when they are told by the pediatrician that something is wrong? Do they think it begins when the parents start to notice that this child responds quite differently from their first child? Do they think it begins when the grandparent points out some concerns or they observe their child at a play date? The students align themselves with all of the scenarios but historically nod at the suggestion that when the physician delivers the "bad news" that's when the stress begins. …

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