Life can change in the blink of an eye and the very things we think make us who we are can be ripped away in an instant.
When 1 Australian couple was on what should have been the trip of a lifetime, they experienced a devastating tragedy that shattered the life they had built together. After spending months praying for a miracle, an unlikely hero answered their prayers…
A Shared Passion
During the years they dated and the first few years of their marriage, 1 Australian couple, who shared a passion for traveling, spent as much time as they could exploring the world. When they started a family and became parents to 3 boys over the years, however, they were forced to put their travels on hold.
Sharing Their Passion
The couple felt blessed for their experiences and wanted to share those experiences with their kids. While most parents wish their kids would stop growing, they couldn’t wait for the boys to be old enough so that they could start traveling together as a family…
The First Family Holiday
In 2013, the couple decided the boys were finally old enough to go on their first real family vacation abroad and planned a trip to Thailand, where they would travel in a minivan from Phuket to Chiang Mai and beyond to less touristy areas near the borders of Myanmar and Laos.
The Beginning Of An Adventure
That same year, the couple left Australia with their 3 young sons for what should have been the first of many fun-filled family holidays. However, on 1 of the first days of the vacation, the family experienced a tragedy that would change their lives forever…
A Magical Morning
After landing in Thailand, Cameron Bloom and his wife, Sam, drove their minivan packed with their luggage and their 3 sons, Rueben, Noah, and Oliver, to a small village on the Gulf of Thailand. “On our very first morning we swam in the sea for an hour or two and then climbed the spiral staircase to the hotel’s two-story observation deck to take in our surroundings,” Sam explained.
The Only Regret
“In the tropical heat, everything shimmered green and radiant gold; pineapple farms, rubber trees, water buffalo, jungle fowl, distant temples, bright sand, and even brighter water seemed to stretch into forever,” Sam explained. “I wish with all my heart that I’d never seen that beautiful view…”
The Safety Fence
While Cameron was taking some photos, Sam leaned against the safety fence, which consisted of steel poles bolted to concrete pillars and timber posts, that ran along the length of the observation deck. As she leaned her weight against the sturdy-looking wall, however, the barrier crumbled and fell away.
“The barrier simply fell away from the deck and I fell with it, crashing onto the unyielding blue tiles twenty feet below. The Royal Thai Police investigation would later find that the barrier was rotten and criminally neglected,” Sam explained. “In that single moment our whole world came crashing down,” Cameron added…
A 20-Foot Drop
Sam dropped 20 feet and her body hit the hard tile floor below. “I dropped my juice and ran to the edge. Looking down was more terrible than I could have imagined,” Cameron said about the moment he saw his wife’s body on the ground. Sam’s skull was fractured in several places and her brain was bruised and badly bleeding. Both of Sam’s lungs were ruptured and 1 had completely collapsed.
A Life-Changing Injury
But that wasn’t even the worst of Sam’s injuries. On impact, Sam had bitten through her tongue and broken her back. “My spine was shattered at the T6 and T7 vertebrae—more or less in line with my chest—and a fist-shaped knot of bone had exploded through my back. Of course, this grim medical account came to me second hand; I was unconscious, lying in an ever-expanding puddle of blood,” Sam said…
The First Surgeries
About 20 minutes later, an ambulance arrived and the paramedics strapped Sam onto a spinal board and rushed her to the hospital. Once at the hospital in Bangkok, doctors performed surgery on Sam and gave Cameron the full report on her injuries.
A Devastating Prognosis
Once Sam was stable enough, she was flown back to Sydney where the family hoped doctors would have more promising news about her prognosis. “In my absence, a callous doctor brusquely told Sam that it was obvious she’d never walk again. My brave wife was devastated,” Cameron said…
A Death Spiral
For the next 7 months, Sam stayed in the hospital in a rehabilitation program. At the end of those months in the spinal ward, Sam was finally released home but she no longer felt like she belonged in her old life and hated that her own husband and children had to take care of her. As time went on, Sam’s will to live withered. “Within three months of coming home, my routine had become a death spiral. I would sleep for as long as I could, then I would cry in the shower, where the boys couldn’t see or hear me. I would constantly think about suicide. In my mind, I was already dead,” Sam said.
Cameron tried everything to cheer his wife up, but nothing could right what had happened to her. “In addition to seeking the best medical advice we could, we prayed to anyone who would hear us, begging for help,” Cameron explained. “And then one day our prayers were answered in the most unexpected way when a tiny, scruffy, injured magpie chick entered our lives…”
The Baby Magpie
The couple’s son, Noah, had found a baby magpie, a bird native to Australia, in the parking near his grandmother’s house. The chick had been blown from its nest and crashed down about 60 feet onto the asphalt below. Without care, she would have easily died within a few hours. “Our family had witnessed enough tragedy for one lifetime and we were not going to sit idly by. So we bundled her up and took her home,” Cameron said.
A New Purpose
No animal shelter would take the wild bird, which the boys had already named Penguin, so Cameron and Sam decided they would nurse her back to health until she was strong enough to survive on her own. “Penguin required constant attention; she needed to be fed every two hours and kept warm at all times. Suddenly, I had something to do,” Sam explained. “I didn’t feel as useless anymore; my instincts as nurse and mother revived when I was tending to this tiny, feathered soul. I didn’t realize it at the time but, in a way, we were keeping each other alive…”
A Part Of The Family
In the beginning, Penguin was weak and would often refuse to eat. The family often worried if she would make it through the night. But as the weeks passed, Penguin gained strength and quickly became a part of the family. At night, she would often sneak into a bed for cuddles and would play games and watch movies with her brothers.
A Unique Bond
“During this time Penguin bonded with every member of the family, but her relationship with Sam was special,” Cameron said. When Penguin was sick and weak, Sam would care for her. When Sam was struggling emotionally or physically, Penguin was right there by her side singing to her for motivation. “I would often overhear the two of them having what sounded like long, in-depth conversations about what they were going through,” Cameron added. “Sometimes Sam would speak softly to Penguin, sometimes Penguin would sing to Sam, and sometimes neither would make a sound for hours at a time. I came to believe that each knew exactly what the other was feeling. Their beautiful relationship could be defined as unlikely best friends but it was deeper than that…”
Over time, both Sam and Penguin got stronger and more independent. As Penguin finally learned to fly, Sam dedicated herself to physiotherapy and took up kayaking. Today, Penguin has returned back to the wild and has found a boyfriend and made her own nest. Sam, resumed her favorite role as mother and wife and also started competing in kayaking around the world as a member of the Australian para-canoe team. “I was my own person again, with new dreams and new reasons to smile. For the first time since my accident I felt truly alive,” Sam said.
“Caring for Penguin has changed our perspective on life, love and pretty much everything else. In the beginning, we thought we were rescuing Penguin, but now we know this remarkable little bird has made us stronger, brought us closer as a family, given us countless reasons to smile and laugh during an extremely difficult time and, in doing so, helped us heal emotionally and physically. So, in a very real way, Penguin rescued us,” Cameron said. “As far as we are concerned, Penguin is living proof that angels come in all shapes and sizes.”