It’s a…baby! The baby doll that dangles from the beak of an iconic stork sculpture perched on the rooftop of a San Diego hospital was carefully replaced Friday morning after it was blown away by strong winds during a recent El Niño storm.
The baby – wearing a cozy cap and tucked into a pink and blue blanket – has been returned to its rightful perch alongside the big white stork that decorates the corner of the parking garage structure at Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns at 3003 Health Center Dr. Together, the famous stork and baby overlook State Route 163 and are a San Diego landmark that is hard to miss.
During a gusty storm on Jan. 31, the wind was so strong the baby was blown out of the blanket, landing on the ground on the rooftop level of the parking garage.
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The following day, Theresa Kvederis, a longtime Sharp Mary Birch employee with the admitting and patient registration department, was parking in the garage for her shift when she noticed something odd lying on the ground.
At first, she thought someone had accidentally left something behind. But when she took a closer look, she was met with a tiny, adorable surprise.
She glanced at the childless stork sculpture in the lot and her suspicions were confirmed: it was the stork's baby doll.
“[I thought], ‘Oh yeah, that’s our baby from the stork. Oh my gosh, that poor baby got blown out of its blankie in the storm!’” Kvederis told NBC 7.
Kvederis said she walked over to the doll, picked it up and brushed it off.
“It’s a pretty big baby,” she said, with a laugh. “It looks more like an 8-month-old. It was pretty cute.”
She then took it to security guards at the hospital for safekeeping.
“I told them, ‘The stork delivered a baby.’ We were all laughing. It was a cute story all day long,” she added.
Kvederis later learned the doll’s blanket had also been found, blown away in another direction in the parking lot.
Rosalina Famania, marketing and communications specialist for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital, told NBC 7 the doll – known affectionately by staffers as “Stork Baby” – has been replaced more than once over the years, but never due to high winds or strong storms.
Like many San Diegans, Kvederis said she considers the stork and Stork Baby a great symbol and “focal point” for Sharp Mary Birch Hospital. She said the giant stork often helps staffers give patients easier directions to the hospital. She herself tells patients to just “pull into the garage with the stork on it.”
The stork sculpture, which is made of an iron frame and fiberglass, was a gift from the City of Sierra Madre, given to Sharp Mary Birch Hospital for Women & Newborns in 1960 after it appeared in the Tournament of Roses parade. The stork was originally the centerpiece of a float fittingly titled “The Birds and the Bees.”
Since then, as the sculpture’s dedication plaque notes, “The stork has welcomed new mothers and babies at Sharp – and is a beloved San Diego landmark.”
On Friday, after undoing some cleaning and repairs, the stork and the baby doll were returned to their home on the rooftop level of the hospital’s parking structure.
A crew of about a dozen Sharp Health Care engineering staffers worked together to hoist the stork back up to its upright position. Stork Baby was gingerly placed inside a blanket created by hospital staffers and that blanket was then hooked onto the beak of the stork.
Famania said staffers ensured Stork Baby was securely tucked inside the blanket with Velcro, should there be any more wind storms. She said hospital doesn’t consider the baby doll to be a specific gender because “it’s a representative of all babies at the hospital.”
After being hung with care, the doll and its blanket gently swayed in the mild wind as the stork looked on, as it always does, at commuters on the freeway. What a birth story.