A Father’s Calling

A Father’s Calling

From A 5th Portion of Chicken Soup for the Soul

A Father’s Calling

On August 28, 1982, Carl and Joyce Lambert sat by their daughter Karen’s bedside in shock and grief. The day before, Karen had been a bouncy, spirited sixteen-year-old, a good student and budding musician. Then, the call that every parent dreads: there had been an accident. Karen had been on her way home from a flute lesson when her car overturned on an onramp. She was thrown through the windshield and landed on the pavement, where she was hit by another car. As Carl and Joyce hovered over her in intensive care, Carl felt a strong sense of helplessness. His daughter was not expected to live, and there was nothing he could do to help.

Yet Karen did live. She had twelve hours of surgery to repair internal bleeding, multiple fractures, a crushed shoulder and elbow, and a torn and bleeding liver. She was in a coma with severe head injury, and was in shock. But Carl was a computer scientist, not a doctor. For eighty-one days there was nothing he and Joyce could do but wait and pray.

Then, on day eighty-two, Karen woke up.

It was their Karen, but it was almost as if she were an infant again. She no longer knew how to swallow, talk, count, walk, or even think clearly.

Carl’s sense of helplessness persisted, though he did all he could. Karen spent four more months in the hospital and the next six in therapy as an outpatient.

The Lamberts worked out a plan in which Joyce continued her full-time job for income and benefits while Carl stayed at home with their daughter.

When Karen arrived home in a wheelchair, her parents breathed a sigh of relief. Carl and Karen began the long process of rehabilitation. Therapists cost $60 to $120 an hour, but Carl himself was willing to put in as much time as was necessary—being a parent was his most important priority.

Everything was time-consuming and required the utmost patience—on both their parts. To teach Karen to speak again, Carl had her utter the word “hut” for five hours a day. He found this stretched the vocal chords and began to make speech possible.

As she improved, the two began playing card games to help Karen’s concentration. Even small progress required playing for long stretches of time, sometimes up to eighteen hours a day. Karen was improving, but the pace was slow. The strain was becoming too much for both of them.

What was a father to do?

While in the shower one morning, it hit him. True, he wasn’t a doctor. He wasn’t even a professional therapist. But he was a computer scientist. And perhaps that was what could help Karen the most!

A computer would be the perfect aid to help Karen learn tasks such as counting, concept formation, pattern recognition and problem solving. A computer would never tire of repetition, could work at Karen’s own speed, and would be on call twenty-four hours a day. It could even provide fun!

So Carl got to work. He called in occupational and speech therapists, doctors, psychologists and even a physical therapist. They proposed problems to be worked on; he designed computer programs offering games and stimulating activities to solve them. And that’s how Karen learned the basic skills, and once again developed concentration and memory.

In fact, the software programs were so helpful, motivational and fun, that they were packaged as the Karen Lambert Foundation programs, and are now in use across the country.

Today, Karen Lambert is again a spunky young woman with a charming sense of humor. She’s thirty-one, happily married, and enjoys taking college courses now and then.

You’d be hard pressed to find a prouder father than Carl. He’s not only glad that Karen is finding a sense of independence, but that his days of feeling helpless are well behind him. He discovered that it’s all well and good to be a doctor or a professional therapist. But sometimes, it’s even better to be yourself.

Sharon Whitley

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