How far would you go to save a life?

Today is May 15 and the Navigate the Chaos question to consider is “how far would you go to save a life?” There is no doubt today’s strategy to navigate the chaos and practice the art of living well is extreme. The strategy of saving a life may never come along in your life time. That is true for most people. But there are examples of people who have navigated the chaos of life and practiced the art of living well by risking their life for someone else. Today’s reflection recognizes Shavarsh Karapetyan and Cameron Lyle, two outstanding individuals who risked their life to save others and in so doing provide us with something to think about regarding today’s question.


Shavarsh Karapetyan was a Merited Master of Sports of the USSR and a ten-time World Record-breaker in fin-swimming. On September 16, 1976 after completing a 12-mile run alongside Yerevan Lake with his brother Kamo, the brothers heard the sound of a crash and saw a sinking trolleybus which had gone out of control and fallen from a dam wall. The trolleybus lay 33 feet at the bottom of the reservoir some 80 feet offshore. Karapetyan swam out to the 92 passengers trapped in the sunken trolley and, despite conditions of almost zero visibility, due to the silt rising from the bottom, broke the back window with his legs. Karapetyan started bringing people up from the bottom of the lake to his waiting brother. The combined effect of multiple lacerations from glass shards led to Karapetyan's hospitalization for 45 days, as he developed pneumonia and sepsis. Subsequent lung complications prevented Karapetyan from continuing his sports career.


Unfortunately, it took over two year for Karapetyan's achievement to be recognized in his home country. He was eventually awarded the Medal "For the Salvation of the Drowning" and the Order of the Badge of Honor. On October 12, 1982, the newspaper Komsomolskaya Pravda published the article "The Underwater Battle of the Champion," revealed he was the rescuer and he received 60,000 letters as he became a household name due to his heroic efforts.


Cameron Lyle, a Division I college athlete in New Hampshire, provides a second example of someone who demonstrated how far he would go to save a life. When he was a sophomore at the University of New Hampshire he stopped at a table to learn more about bone marrow registry. Since the people at the table told him the odds are most of those who register never receive a phone call to donate bone marrow, he decided to have his mouth swabbed. Fast forward to his senior year, and he received that phone call that most registrants never get. His bone marrow was a match for a young man with leukemia who had six months to live without the bone marrow transplant.


Without hesitation Lyle told his coach, girlfriend, and family that he was going to miss senior championship season in the shot put and hammer throw to save the life of someone who did not know. Lyle put things in perspective when he said "It's just a sport. Just because it's Division I college level doesn't make it any more important. Life is a lot more important than that, so it was pretty easy.”


For today’s reflection, here are some questions to consider related to both stories.

  • What would have happened if Karapetyan ended his run a few miles earlier or later?

  • What would have happened if Karapetyan changed his route?

  • What would have happened if Karapetyan decided not to run that day?

  • What would have happened if Lyle did not attend the University of New Hampshire?

  • What would have happened if Lyle did not stop at the table to learn about the bone marrow registry?

  • What would have happened if Lyle chose to compete in his senior year?

We know the answers to these questions. The people on board the trolley most likely would have perished and the young man suffering from leukemia most likely would have died. Life is so random at times. We have so little control over life. We want to. We want to believe we have control over all that we do. We try to convince ourselves we are in complete control all the time. Being out of control or feeling so makes people uncomfortable. Those on the trolley and the leukemia patient needed the efforts of a complete stranger to save their life. You may get such an opportunity in your life. If so, will you take it? You may need someone to risk their life for you. If that is the case, will they do so?


Karapetyan and Lyle are just two of the many examples of those who risked their lives to save others. We should remember their names not solely for what they did, but what they represent. They represent the best of the human experience. They represent hope amidst despair. They represent light in darkness. How often do you?