I had to


I Had To Survive

"How a plane crash in the Andes inspirede my calling to save lives"

On October 13, 1972, an Uruguayan air force plane carrying members of the Old Christians rugby team—and many of their friends and family members—crashed in 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.
As he tended to his wounded teammates amidst the devastating carnage, rugby player Roberto Canessa, a second-year medical student at the time, realized that no one on earth was luckier: he was alive—and for that, he should be eternally grateful. As the starving group struggled beyond the limits of what seemed possible, Canessa played a key role in safeguarding his fellow survivors, eventually trekking with a companion across the hostile mountain range for help.

  • “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

No one could have imagined that there were survivors from the accident in such extreme conditions. Canessa's extraordinary experience on the fine line between life and death became the catalyst for the rest of his life.
This uplifting tale of hope and determination, solidarity and ingenuity, gives vivid insight into the world-famous story that inspired the movie Alive! Canessa also draws a unique and fascinating parallel between his work as a doctor diagnosing very complex congenital cardiopathies in unborn and newborn infants and the difficult life-changing decisions he was forced to make in the Andes. With grace and humanity, Canessa prompts us to ask ourselves: what do you do when all the odds are stacked against you?