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Dr Roberto Canessa: An Inspiring example of Great Human Endurance and Spirit!

Dr Roberto Canessa, a Pediatric Cardiologist from Uruguay delivered the Keynote Address at the American College of Cardiology Meeting to a packed audience of Cardiologists from all over the World. He boldly and vividly narrated his personal experience as a survivor of the 1972 horrifying airline crash in the Andes Mountains. At that time, he was a 17 year old second year medical student who was also a player of the rugby team that was heading to Chile to play a tournament when the plane crashed in the Andes mountains. Of the 45 on board, He was amongst 27 who miraculously survived some with minor and others with major injuries. With no communication and no help in sight, they spent the next 72 days in extremely cold conditions with temperatures dropping below -30 degree Celsius temperature.

Exhausting all food available in the crashed plane in the first 10 days and even having tried eating leather of luggage and no signs of food in the snow capped mountains, the survivors faced starvation and death. As a medical student, Canessa knew that in addition to calorie, they needed protein for their survival and proposed the idea of feeding on the frozen remains of dead comrades. All the survivors reluctantly agreed to resort to cannibalism eating the frozen remains of the dead comrades.

As days passed into weeks, 9 people were buried alive in an avalanche and three more people succumbed to cold and injuries. More than 60 days had gone when the two survivors, Cannesa and Parraddo decided to climb up the mountain with no gear and walked 28 miles for 10 days climbing #Andes Mountains until they finally came to a valley and saw signs of humanity and were helped by Sergio Catalán, a muleteer who called for assistance by driving 10 hours to notify Chilean Police who finally rescued the rest of 14 survivors too. Dr Canessa’s life changing experience taught him the amazing strength and resolve of the Human #Mind, #Body and #Spirit. He talked about being Grateful and Happy for all that we have as a physician community. He received a standing ovation when he urged the Cardiology Community to realize that we have more than we need and we do less than we can . He emphasized to serve our communities more by overcoming all challenges and adding to the #Happiness and #Health of everyone.


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