I Had to Survive: How a Plane Crash in the Andes Inspired My Calling to Save Lives
A survivor of the infamous 1972 plane crash in the Andes that inspired the film Alive offers a gripping and heartrending recollection of the harrowing brink-of-death experience that propelled him to become one of the world’s leading pediatric cardiologists.
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A survivor of the infamous 1972 plane crash in the Andes that inspired the film Alive offers a gripping and heartrending recollection of the harrowing brink-of-death experience that propelled him to become one of the world’s leading pediatric cardiologists. 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. Sixteen survivors were stranded in unforgiving temperatures at an altitude of 10,000 feet with no vegetation or wildlife for food. For more than two months, aware that the search for them had been called off, they endured unimaginably harsh conditions. As he tended to his wounded teammates amidst the devastating carnage of the wreck, 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. From making the decision to eat the bodies of their deceased teammates to trekking across the hostile mountain range for help, Canessa played a key role in safeguarding his fellow survivors. This 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 a world famous story. Canessa also draws a unique and fascinating parallel between his work as a doctor performing arduous heart surgeries on infants and unborn babies 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?