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Passing on missing history

Helana Semborski looks over a calendar that was started for baby Adriana, a newborn found abandoned at the Mariner Mall in 1995, at Twisted Pasteries Coffeehouse in Superior June 29. She'd like to return the calendar, which came home with her accidentally from the St. Mary's NICU, to "Adriana," who would now be 22. (Maria Lockwood / mlockwood@superiortelegram.com)

When she dug into a round of spring cleaning this year, Helana Semborski didn't expect to uncover a piece of Superior's history. Now, the 22-year-old is on a mission to put what she found — a 1995 "Baby's First Year" calendar — in the hands of the woman it belongs to.

The story began nearly 23 years ago. It's chronicled in The (Superior) Daily Telegram, beginning Aug. 17, 1995.

Jillene Johnson, out for an anniversary celebration with her husband, Dave, found a newborn baby in a bathroom at the Mariner Mall. With her was a handwritten note: "She was born Aug. 15 between 2:30 a.m.-4:30 a.m. I delivered her myself. I'm very sorry for leaving her like this. I had no choice about it. Who ever find her please take care of her. I do love her."

Authorities searched for the mother, hoping for information and the chance to help her. The mall launched a support fund for the infant and calls to adopt her flooded in from as far away as Nebraska.

The baby, who was referred to as "Mally," "the Mariner Doe" and finally, "Adriana Abigail Douglas," was brought to the St. Mary's Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) in Duluth. That's where she crossed paths with Semborski.

"I was a preemie," said the Superior woman. "I was born about two and a half months early. I was supposed to be an October baby."

When Semborski's parents brought her home in early September, they accidentally added a piece of baby Adriana's life to their bags. It wasn't revealed until about a month ago when Semborski was cleaning her room. She'd seen the calendar before and thought nothing of it. This time she decided to open it.

The name on it wasn't hers.

"It took me by surprise," Semborski said.

She realized it was a bigger story as she read the entries.

"Here on the 20th it says: 'The media is calling to see if there is a trust fund for me. They are even calling from Madison. The hospital is releasing press updates 3 times a day about me,'" Semborski said.

Following recovery from an emergency surgery to remove dead bowel tissue, the newborn was placed with a foster family.

"'Adriana' released from hospital to first home," the Telegram headline read Sept. 13, 1995.

Her calendar, however, stops on Sept. 4.

"Happy Labor Day,' says the last entry. "I love being held, looking at my mobile."

The handwritten notes detail things like the Johnsons' visit to Abigail.

"The people who 'discovered' me came to visit me," read the Aug. 19 entry. "They thought I was very cute. They brought me a angel to watch over me."

Dr. Linda Van Etta, an infection specialist, came to visit Aug. 24.

"I think one of my favorites is: 'My foster parents came to visit this morning. We rocked for 1 hour. I really liked all the hugs and kisses. 7 pounds, 7 ounces,'" Semborski said, pointing to the Aug. 25 entry.

The idea to return the calendar kindled as she looked it over.

"As I was reading it, I was getting pretty emotional because I was thinking about all the stories my mom told me in the past about what it was like for her and my dad, having me," the Superior woman said.

She could only imagine what it was like for Adriana's family. If the calendar was hers, Semborski said, she'd want it to fill in the blanks.

"It's kind of sad," she said, but, "It's still a part of who you are and about how your life got started and everything."

Her entire family was surprised by the calendar switch.

"It was one of those things you read about it but you never think you would have that type of situation," Semborski said.

A recent graduate of the University of Wisconsin-Superior, she's shared her discovery on Facebook and at a local radio station, hoping to connect with her NICU neighbor.

Anyone with information on baby Adriana's whereabouts can email hsembors@gmail.com or contact Helana Semborski on Facebook.

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