My Trip to the American Girl Doll Hospital
These American Girls have better healthcare than this American girl.
If you haven’t heard yet, I am single. I am so single that I have never not been single. I am so single that I’ve reached that point in my life where I had nothing better to do than to go through the shed in the back of my parents’ house and find the box that contained my old American Girl dolls and all their accessories. I am so lonely that once I found the dolls in the shed and saw that they were worse for wear, started trying to scrub the weird white mold that got all over my Kit doll’s face. I am so lonely that I brought said dolls back to my apartment and they have a little place to sit, facing my bed and watching me sleep. If you need to ask, I am probably not okay.
Kailey (the surfer Girl of the Year doll from 2003) had the loosest legs I’ve ever seen. They would just go every which way. She also had these really nice braids originally that my ten year-old self loved to mess with. Kailey didn’t look so bad as she just looked like she was loved very much by a child.
Kit, on the other hand, was a different story. My two dolls were stuck in the same box but Kit just had all the bad luck. Her face was covered in mold that we mostly were able to get off, but not without some casualties. Her classic freckles and part of her eyebrow got taken off with miracle spirits. While her limbs were still pretty tight, her arms were dark on the inside—indicating that mold got in there as well. At first, I just took their new shed-induced flaws as a part of their long history as dolls that I loved as a kid and how usually childhood toys do look a little fucked up. But then after having to stare at Kit’s post-mold half-eyebrowed face I knew I couldn’t deal with this forever. And I knew that there were other options.
It was time to take a visit to the American Girl doll hospital.
Now you might be wondering why American Girl dolls have a hospital and that’s a great question. I haven’t been able to find an official statement but logically I think the reasoning behind it is that while these dolls are meant for children, they are also way more expensive than any other doll. Kids do wild stuff and it’s nice to know that if a head pops off or someone tries to cut their own bangs, that for a small fee you can send the doll away and get it fixed as good as new.
I am not new to the idea of the American Girl hospital. When I was a wee little one, I had AG dolls of my own. Kit Kittredge was my first one and I loved her a lot. My younger brother, always wanting to get in on the action, grabbed Kit one day and her arm popped out. My mom, trying to be handy at home, gave her this little mesh sleeve that kind of held her arm back in place but didn’t work out super well. So they sent her off to the hospital to get her arm fixed and she came back as good as new.
Kit has obviously seen some shit. Not only did she get her arm ripped off in like 2002 but she then spent seven years becoming a petri dish, forgotten in a shed. It was time for me to send her and her friend off to get some work done. The first time she went to the hospital, I’m pretty sure my parents printed out a shipping label and sent her to the hospital directly. The second time, I took a walk over to the American Girl Place on the Magnificent Mile in Chicago on my lunch break and handed my dolls over to them that way.
At the hospital there were three packages to choose from that cost $45, $50, and $88. The $45 package is called “Refresh and Renew” where they tighten limbs and comb out and re-style hair. This is the package I got to fix Kailey, since her hair was kind of wild but not messed with in any way (they don’t do wig replacements, just head replacements). The $50 package is called “Care & Repair” and they will replace one limb or head piece. Then there’s the $88 package which is the “Advanced Care & Repair.” This was obviously what Kit needed because she needed a new everything. Sure, $88 is a lot for a doll but dolls out of the box are $115 so if you’re getting basically a full replacement it’s still cheaper than getting a whole new doll. Plus, there’s the experience of taking your girl to the hospital, which is kind of fun. There are other things you can get done at the doll hospital, like getting a hearing aid fitted and getting the doll’s ears pierced which is a very cool little feature especially if you have a lookalike doll.
When I took my dolls out of the bag the woman at the counter just said, “Oh no!” She also asked me if I had an American Girl shopper’s account and I had to explain that these dolls were purchased 20 years ago. I do now have an American Girl shopper’s account though.
With a swipe of my credit card the dolls were shipped off to be fixed and I just had to wait for a FedEx package to come to my door. After three or so weeks that day arrived and it was time to open the box and see the great work that had been done. Kit and Kailey were both treated by Dr. Melody, who honestly did some fantastic work. (After my TikTok about the AG hospital went viral someone who worked at the doll hospital messaged me on Instagram to ask who took care of my dolls to let her know her patients went viral. Life is weird sometimes.) Kailey’s hair was braided wonderfully and Kit was a completely new person—I mean doll. They also came in cute little hospital gowns, hospital socks, and a “Get Well Soon!” card. Back in the olden times, dolls who came from the hospital also got a cute little “Get Well Soon!” balloon, but that was discontinued. I didn’t know about the discontinued balloons so I expected to get one like I did when Kit had her first visit in the early 2000s, so I was a little disappointed about that.
It turns out that most dolls are still fixable, but there are some who aren’t. Some limited-edition dolls like Lindsey, Cécile, and Marisol cannot have their heads fixed because they simply just ran out of heads. Also I have been advised that if you have an original Pleasant Company doll (this was the company that owned American Girl before it got bought by Mattel) then you should probably not get those heads removed, since the molds are a little different and there’s a Pleasant Company stamp on the back. I’m not a super huge collector, but I get that those little details are important to some people.
Because I am who I am, I did make a TikTok about this whole ordeal, and to my surprise it went viral. And like every video that takes off online, I started to get a lot of comments on my video. A large amount of people commented that my fixed Kit dolls was like the Ship of Theseus question: is something with completely new parts the same thing at all? And yeah, it did throw me in for a loop a little bit. I have no idea how many parts Kit got replaced. Upon further inspection her torso looks to be new as well (there was a weird stain on it post-shed), so I do hope that at least one of her legs were good enough to keep. Do I have a completely new doll? Most likely. But to me that doesn’t take away all the memories I had with the original Kit and all the trials and tribulations I put her through. She also now is not a doll that is covered in mold and that’s really what counts, you know?
So there it is, the ins and outs of taking your American Girl dolls to the doll hospital. Was this worth it? I think so. I have adult money now and I already spent so much time digging these dolls out I might as well have seen it through to the end. Now when they stare at me while I sleep, they won’t have an arm full of mold and jacked-up hair, which is all I could ever want these days.
And stay tuned—I also found all of the doll clothes my mom made by hand and some of these outfits are quite interesting so I’ll have to make a post about the best and worst of them sometime I have time to do a doll photoshoot (this is where my life is going, huh).