The worst day of Sam Bloom's life wasn't the day she suffered a life-changing injury while on holiday in Thailand.
Nor was it the day she was told she was paralysed from the chest down.
It was the day when she came home from hospital and went through her front door.
"I've always loved our house, but as I went through that front door all those months later, I knew that nothing would ever be the same again," Mrs Bloom said.
On Saturday, October 28, Mrs Bloom shared her journey from mum, nurse and wife with it all to spinal cord injury victim, and then to World Para Surfing Champion with an audience of Lions Club members and guests in Kiama.
Many in attendance were familiar with Mrs Bloom's story, having first read it in her bestseller, Penguin Bloom, and then seen it on the big screen, with Naomi Watts stepping into Mrs Bloom's shoes.
For the few who had not heard her tale before, Mrs Bloom was on holiday with her husband Cam and three boys when a balcony collapsed, leaving her to fall to the concrete tiles below.
Mrs Bloom was transported to a Thai hospital before being medevaced to Australia, where doctors confirmed her worst fears, she had suffered a spinal cord injury, paralysing her permanently from the chest down.
Currently, there is no cure for spinal cord injuries, and while there is rehabilitation available, the prospects of regaining limited movement is a slow and arduous task. Getting Mrs Bloom through this darkness was the arrival and friendship with a baby magpie, christened Penguin for his soft grey plumage.
But even if the details had been heard before, the story was inspiring nonetheless, with audience members standing in unison and applauding Mrs Bloom's determination and the moving support of her family and friends to get to where she is today.
One of those who was clapping just a bit harder was Tullimbar resident Bobbie English.
Mrs English knows better than most what Sam, and in particular her husband Cam had gone through.
In 2018, Mrs English's husband Chris suffered a horrific accident on his 69th birthday, becoming a quadriplegic in the process.
"He just got up from the table and went outside," Mrs English recalls. "We thought he was going to say hi to the dog, and we heard this terrible slap."
The once fit man who donated plasma every fortnight was left in a hospital bed, unable to move or bathe himself. Mrs English and her daughter became his full time carers.
"Our whole family was impacted one way or another," she said.
The family had to sell their home in Kiama and move to a house in Tullimbar that was more suitable for Mr English to get around in.
Ineligible for the NDIS due to Mr English's age when he suffered the injury, the family had to rely aged care supports to cover the costs of specialised equipment and care. The family petitioned for this policy to be changed, taking their story to Canberra and meeting with politicians, albeit to no avail.
Instead, the family found the Kiama Lions Club, of which Mr English was the president-elect when he suffered his injury, stepped in to fill the gap.
"The whole time Chris was in hospital I don't think there was a week that went past that the Lions club didn't have someone up with him."
That support continued throughout, and prior to Chris passing away in 2021 he told a fellow member to ensure Bobbie was admitted as a member, becoming a member of the Lions "family".
In honour of Chris, the club has continued to raise funds for spinal cord injury research and care, as well as raising awareness of the condition, which affects over 20,000 Australians and costs the Australian economy $3.7 billion annually.
Seaking to those gathered on the weekend, executive director of Spinal Cure Australia Duncan Wallace said despite there being no cure available today, it was still a "believable goal", something that the families and supporters of those with spinal cord injuries could strive towards.
At the same time, the organisation is working on neurostimulation, a method by which electricity is used to relieve pain and restore movement.
Mrs English said the Kiama branch of the Lions Club would continue its efforts in spinal cord research dn awareness, and supporting the families and carers of those who suffer an injury, but said it was vital that clubs such as these and other volunteer organisations received their own support, as they had supported her and her family.
"When something happened in Lions, the whole Lions family is behind you."
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