How a Magpie Helped Save Australian Mom Sam Bloom After a Tragic Accident — and Inspired a Netflix Movie
"Who in a million years would have ever thought that?" Bloom, 49, tells PEOPLE in this week's issue.
But Bloom's story about triumph over tragedy, will soon be seen in the Netflix movie Penguin Bloom out on Jan. 27.
In 2013, the active mother of three boys — Rueben, now 19, Noah, 17, and Oli, 15 — and her husband, Cameron, 49, a photographer, decided to take a family vacation to Thailand. While they were enjoying the view from their hotel's observation deck, the balcony railing gave way, and Bloom fell 20 feet to the concrete below. She fractured her skull in several places, her brain was bruised and bleeding and both lungs ruptured. Her spine was also shattered-leaving her paralyzed below her chest.
For more on Sam Bloom and Naomi Watts, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.
When she returned home after seven months of rehabilitation, Bloom fell into a deep depression."That's when the reality hit," says Bloom. "Where we live, you can see the beach. The beach was everything to me. I was surfing and swimming all the time. I could no longer run down there like before the accident. At that point, I didn't want to live."
But things began to change three months later when her son Noah brought home an injured black and white baby magpie bird the family named Penguin.
"I stopped thinking about myself and put more energy into caring for Penguin because she was so vulnerable. That really helped me." The more time she spent with Penguin, the better she felt. "Animals are so healing," she says.
Bloom's husband, Cameron, began taking photos of Penguin interacting with the family and eventually turned it into a book called Penguin Bloom, which Watts read four years ago and knew immediately she wanted to make it into a film.
"The images were so compelling, and the story was filled with courage and hope," says Watts, 52. "I felt the hairs raise on my skin when I put it down," recalls Watts. "I knew I had to play Sam."
As Bloom and Penguin began to regain their strength together, Bloom got back in the water and began kayaking. She went on to win two national kayaking titles, and in 2015 traveled to Italy as a member of the Australian paracanoe team. Around the same time Penguin, as if sensing that Bloom was now okay, flew back out into the wild.
These days Bloom has also become a competitive adaptive surfer. "I won my first competition in 2018 in America. It has been absolutely unreal," she says.
Watts hopes Bloom's story of love, nature and perseverance helps others dealing with trauma.
"We have all gone through different levels of pain, but the pain Sam went through was extraordinary," says Watts. "To see someone navigate that and watch how this family, who was really broken down, come back together again and heal is beautiful and magical."
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