Dr. Roberto Canessa

Book: "I Had to survive"

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I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives

  • “Canessa references the life-and-death decisions that prepared him to become the most delicate of doctors.… Riveting.”

    Publishers Weekly

  • “Readably inspiring from beginning to end.”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “An instant classic.”

    Jeffrey A. Sheehan - Associate Dean for International Relations at The Wharton School of the University of Pennsylvania

  • “The champion of the underdog, Canessa was the legs of those unable to climb out of the cordillera, and he is the heart of the unborn, comporting mothers facing their worst nightmares.”

    Jim Lawhon - Teacher of Literature NY & Andes Trip Leader on Student Expeditions to the Memorial Site

  • “By becoming a pediatric cardiologist, he could save the lives of the truly helpless and also honor all those, both living and dead, involved in the traumatic birth of his ‘second life.’”

    Kirkus Reviews

  • “This is the magnificent story of my brother (“brother”) Roberto, of his resilience, redemption and superhuman effort not to give up.”

    Nando Parrado - Andes Survivor

  • “Canessa radiates an energy that suggests he knows more about life and death than most of us.”

    Jim Lawhon - Teacher of Literature NY & Andes Trip Leader on Student Expeditions to the Memorial Site

  • “You will need this book to remind you how beautiful life is.”

    Nando Parrado - Andes Survivor

On October 12, 1972, a Uruguayan Air Force plane carrying members of the “Old Christians” rugby team—and many of their friends and family members—crashed into the Andes Mountains. I Had to Survive offers a gripping and heartrending recollection of the harrowing brink-of-death experience that propelled survivor Roberto Canessa to become one of the world’s leading pediatric cardiologists.

Andes Plane Crash

"I worked for 72 days to achieve the dream of going back to our families"

In 1972, a few days before Christmas, Dr. Roberto Canessa shocked the world when he and Fernando Parrado arrived in Chile after surviving a horrific plane crash and then hiking across the Andes mountains for ten days at an altitude of 16,404 feet and temperatures of twenty-two degrees below zero. Canessa and Parrado guided a rescue party back to their fourteen friends who were still trapped on the mountain two months after the initial search for them had been called off. Dr. Canessa went on to become a pediatric cardiologist, world-renowned for his work with newborn patients and prenatal echocardiography at the Hospital Italiano of Montevideo.

About Roberto

"We all have our own cordilleras"

Roberto Canessa made history for being one of the two men who stunned the world for surviving after walking eleven days and climbing 15.000 thousand feet in the Chilean snow capped Andes Cordillera, to guide rescuers back to 14 friends still trapped in the mountains 72 days after their plane crashed. He was one of 16 young men of 45 rugby players who endured extreme conditions severe cold, injuries, starvation and isolation in December 1972.


"The Triumph of Human Spirit over Adversity"

"The potential that we all have is rarely fully used and although the helicopters rescued our teammates, at the same time I learned that I had to go walking to tell them where we were."


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Paul Harris 1722, Montevideo 11500, Uruguay

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