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A Tragic Accident Paralyzed Sam Bloom, a Tiny Bird Saved HerI died four years ago, and then a wild bird brought me back to life. Its a strange and painful story, but also a happy one. In 2013 my husband and I took our three young sons to Thailand for our first family holiday and stayed in a tiny 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 hotels two-story observation deck to take in our surroundings. 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. I wish with all my heart that Id never seen that beautiful view. At some point, I leaned against the safety barrier that ran along the observation deck. 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.) Related Stories 

 

Health  The 9 Qualities That Help You Thrive Under Pressure   

Motto Best Friends Can Boost Resilience During Tough Times  My skull was fractured in several places, my brain was badly bruised and bleeding, Id bitten c

lean through my tongue, and both lungs

had ruptured. My spine was shattered at the T6 and T7 vertebraemore or less in line with my chestand 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. Thankfully, I have absolutely no recollection of this horror.

Youd think this would be the lowest moment of my life, but it wasnt. Nor was it the day when I was told Id never walk again, though that was utterly devastating. My worst day happened seven months later, after I left the rehabilitation facility. One of my favorite memories is of my husband carrying me through the doorway of our home on our wedding day. I had felt wonderful, my heart lighter than air. But when he carried me through the door on the day I returned home to my family, the gallant and practical gesture seemed unbearably cruel. Our house wasnt how I remembered it, and in my mind, it wasnt my home anymore. It wasnt the precious nest Id made for my three babies. When viewed from a wheelchair, the once-familiar sanctuary of love and comfort became an alien landscape strewn with obstacles. Nothing felt right; I didnt feel like I belonged anymore. It broke my heart to feel so removed from my former life and the people I loved. My accident had made my husband both a single parent and a full-time nurseeven my children had to look after me. I was no longer an independent woman, and I no longer thought of myself as a wife and mother. Bitter, distraught, angry, jealous, and inert, I was everyt

hing I despised: the opposite of the active, happy person I had always been. My sense of personhood withered away, as did my will to live. Sign up for Inside TIME. Be the first to see the new cover of TIME and get our most compelling stories delivered straight to your inbox.   Thank you! For your security, we've sent a confirmation email to the address you entered. Click the link to confirm your subscription and begin receiving our newsletters. If you don't get the confirmation within 10 minutes, please check your spam folder.

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 bo

ys couldnt see or hear me. I would constantly think about suicide. In my mind, I was already dead. The guardian angel that saved my life was a baby bird. My son, Noah, found an injured magpie chick that had been blown out of its nest in a towering Norfolk Island pine tree. Having tumbled sixty feet through countless branches to slam into an asphalt parking lot, it was a miracle that she was still alive. She wouldnt have lasted more than a few hours without help. When no veterinarian would take her in, we carefully gathered her up and carried her home to care for her ourselves.  The Bloom family with Penguin, their magpie. Cameron Bloom @penguinthemagpie    The boys named this noisy little fluff-ball Penguin because of her black and white plumage. I had absolutely no idea how important she would become to all of us, and to me especially. Penguin required constant attention; she needed to be fed every two hours and kept warm at all times. Suddenly, I had something to do. I didnt feel as useless anymore; my instincts as nurse and mother revived when I was tending to this tiny, feathered soul. I didnt realize it at the time but, in a way, we were keeping each other alive. What a funny pair we must ha

ve seemed chatting and singing to each other all day. As is so often the case, I found that helping someone else feel better was the best way to help myself feel better. As Penguin increased her level of independence, so did I. I became committed to exer

cise and physiotherapy, and in time I rediscovered my love of watersports through kayaking, which gave me a new sense of personal freedom. I became happier and more meaningfully engaged with family and friendsand I resumed my most cherished role as a mother to my three beautiful sons.   Spotlight Story Kobe Bryant Had a Singular Impact on His Game and the World Bryant died in a helicopter crash near Los Angeles on Sunday, along with his daughter Gianna Penguin matured into a stunning adult magp

ie. In time she overcame her injuries and learned to fly; her maiden voyage took place in our living room, to the delight of our family. I dont think I had felt as happy since my boys were born. By the time she was r

eady to make her home in the wild a

nd start her own family, I had won two national kayaking titles and was bound for the world championships in Italy as a member of the Australian para-canoe team. More importantly, 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. Bloom, her husband Cameron and the writer Bradley Trevor Greive are the authors of Penguin t

he Magpie, which Reese Witherspoon has optioned for a film, starring Naomi Watts. Contact us at editors@time.com.

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