Pets can offer us the greatest of comfort in our hour of need. However, it’s not very often that a humble bird is credited with saving an entire family. But that’s exactly what happened to the Blooms.
In late 2013 the Bloom family resided in a suburb of Sydney, Australia; that is, mom Sam, dad Cameron and their three sons Reuben, Noah and Oli. It was around that time, however, that Noah made an unusual discovery.
On the grass near a magnificent Norfolk Island pine tree, he noticed a baby bird that had fallen from its nest. Frighteningly, the drop must have been some 60 feet. And with no way to get it back to its nest, the Blooms consequently decided to care for the bird at home.
“We called her Penguin because she looked like a penguin,” Sam told the BBC in October 2016. “She was just white and fluffy and had really big feet.” The family then fashioned Penguin a makeshift nest out of an old laundry basket and gave her a little blanket for warmth.
At only a couple of weeks old, though, Penguin needed a special diet and was very, very weak. Indeed, after consulting a veterinarian, the family learned that the bird would need multiple feeds per day.
However, the Blooms were determined to get Penguin strong and healthy, with a veterinarian friend helping them create the ideal diet for the chick. And, although it was touch and go for some time, Penguin began to regain her strength.
“I’ll never forget when Penguin took her very first flight inside our lounge room – it was an amazing moment for all of us,” Cameron wrote on his website. Indeed, Penguin was given free rein of the family home and soon became a regular fixture in all of the family members’ lives.
“The kids love her like a pet dog, and it’s just become so normal having her around,” Cameron explained to the Daily Mail in March 2015. “She likes to sing for us when she’s around the house and likes to fly onto your head or sit next to you and nibble on your ear. She also runs down the hallway in the morning sometimes to snuggle up in bed with us or the kids.”
Soon, then, Cameron began to document Penguin’s exploits on Instagram. The bird became an instant hit online and quickly amassed thousands of followers. And the professional photographer dad found the magpie a fantastic model, as she “provided so many crazy opportunities to take photos.”
But behind the scenes, the family was struggling emotionally. Just months before her son found Penguin, in fact, Sam had been involved in a tragic accident. Once Penguin arrived, however, everything changed.
While on vacation in Thailand, Sam had fallen from a rickety rooftop terrace. The mother-of-three fell two floors, about 18 feet down, onto the concrete below. “She had this huge lump on her back, and I realized that she had probably done some really horrific damage to her spine,” Cameron recalled to the BBC.
Sam’s head injuries, too, terrified her husband and sons so much that they feared she might die. After the fall, she was rushed to the nearest hospital where it was discovered she had fractured her skull, ruptured both her lungs and broken her spine. And following her transfer to a larger hospital, it took four days before she was stable enough to undergo surgery.
Six weeks after the devastating fall, Sam was then able to fly to a hospital in Australia. Because of her broken spine, though, she was paralyzed from the chest down and would never walk again. As one might, she struggled with both anger and depression upon hearing the news.
“We really looked forward to the day that Sam came home. We thought that everything would be much better and her spirits would lift,” Cameron confessed to the BBC. Indeed, the family had their beachside home modified to accommodate Sam’s new needs, and after six months in the hospital she was finally discharged.
However, Sam still struggled to adapt to her new life – even to the point of wishing that she had passed away from the accident. But with the addition of Penguin in the family, she was better able to come to terms with her situation. “I loved having her around because she was like company,” Sam explained to the BBC.
“She was pretty much on my lap or on my shoulder from the moment we brought her home. She was just company and she’d make us laugh,” she added. What’s more, she revealed that she also found it easier to talk to the magpie about her feelings.
And, as Penguin’s independence grew and she began to explore the outside world, Sam also made progress. She joined the Australian parakayaking team and was able to become more active. Then, all of a sudden, Penguin disappeared.
As it happens, Penguin had been staying away from the house for increasingly longer periods of time. From fall 2015, though, Penguin left the Blooms for a whole year. She did, however, return eventually and now “comes and goes as it pleases her,” according to Cameron.
And after two years of looking after Penguin, the Blooms have now documented their experiences in a new picture book. Ten percent of the profits from the sale of the book, titled Penguin Bloom, will go to Spinal Cure, Australia. The charity funds research into spinal injuries and hopes to some day find a cure.
There’s no denying though, that the magpie’s company helped improve Sam’s quality of life. “Sam was in an incredibly dark place when she came home, and when Penguin arrived in our lives it changed the mood in the house,” Cameron told the BBC. Indeed, as the dad would tell the Guardian in October 2016, the Blooms’ and Penguin’s story is proof that “angels come in all shapes and sizes.”