Four hours. That was the amount of time between looking down the barrel of a gun and finding myself free along a silent highway lined by cotton fields. In the time period that seemed eternal, my unique experiences as a doctor created an indescribable bond between myself and my captor. I looked upon the situation just as I looked upon a medical emergency: I took a deep breath, hid my panic, and tried to solve the situation.
In March 2005, Dr. Steven Berk was kidnapped in Amarillo, Texas, by a dangerous and enigmatic criminal who entered his home, armed with a shotgun, through an open garage door. Dr. Berk’s experiences and training as a physician, especially his understanding of Sir William Osler’s treatise on aequanimitas, enabled him to keep his family safe, establish rapport with his kidnapper, and bring his captor to justice.
This harrowing story is not just about a kidnapping. It is a story about patients, about physicians, and about what each experience has taught Berk about life and death, mistakes, family, the practice of medicine, and the physician-patient relationship. It is a story about how Berk's profession prepared him for an unpredictable situation and how any doctor must address life’s uncertainties.
|Publisher:||Texas Tech University Press|
|Product dimensions:||6.30(w) x 9.30(h) x 1.00(d)|
About the Author
Steven L. Berk, M.D., is dean of the Texas Tech School of Medicine and provost of Texas Tech Health Sciences Center. As a physician certified in infectious disease and geriatrics, Berk has treated an outstanding diversity of patients in his forty-year medical career.
Most Helpful Customer Reviews
Berk begins the fascinating account of his own kidnapping with the theory of why the agitated gun toting kidnapper did not kill him. He feels his medical history and time he spent with patients and in hospitals may have given him some tools to fall back on when he faced death at the hands of an unstable, drug addicted man. He mentions this in an almost casual way, not in arrogance, but more puzzlement. He is thankful for living through his ordeal, but doesn’t have any doubts that it could have gone bad in an instant. The story is told in four intertwined parts. Berg gives the reader an insight to a young doctor’s life by sharing true events and encounters he had with great patients and odd patients. He doesn’t pull any punches or expound as to his greatness. He is frank and honest when telling of mistakes he made when treating some of the cases throughout his career. Everyone makes mistakes, but when doctors do, it can mean someone dies. We follow his life through the hospitals he’s worked in up to his current assignment in Texas. From Arizona to Boston then to Amarillo, TX Berk keeps learning and growing as a doctor. He always wanted to become a missionary doctor, but during his residency at Boston City Hospital he began to realize he really wanted to focus on academic medicine. He also became interested in infectious disease and clinical research. When a medical school classmate asked him to serve as the chairman of the advisory board of an Amarillo medical school, Berk agreed. He loved the challenge and the goals of Texas Tech, and felt the he could help. With his leadership, the campus grew and improved. Berk did the same. He moved his family to Amarillo and settled in to a rewarding career. The fateful morning in March 2005 was like any other. Like any other incident of this magnitude, he could look back and say he should have done something differently and it never would have happened. Life is like that, one little pebble can begin a landslide. Seeing it from the doctor’s perspective is haunting, knowing his fear for his family and his life on that Sunday morning puts the reader in the passenger seat of the car with him. The third part of the story we hear along the way is that of the kidnapper. Jack Lindsey Jordan was born to a wealthy TX family, but had a frightful temper as he grew older. He had spent 10 years in prison on a felony charge just before the kidnapping. We see the series of events that led up to kidnapping unfold as the book progresses. The last part to weave throughout the chapters is the actual court proceedings as documented from the trial. So you know in the beginning that Berk has been kidnapped, Jordan is caught and goes to trial. It is fascinating to read the account from the victim’s perspective. Berk acknowledges that in the end, life is just not fair sometimes. He questions why he was not harmed during his ordeal and other people are shot. There are no answers, only speculations and luck. This memoir reads like a fast paced fiction novel by a New York Times best-selling author. Berk’s ability to bring all four parts of this story - his history, the kidnapping, the kidnapper’s history as well as the court documents together in a page-turning novel makes this book a must-read. DISCLOSURE OF MATERIAL CONNECTION: I have a material connection because I received a review copy that I can keep for consideration in preparing to write this content. I was not expected to return this item after my review. Copyright © 2015 Laura Hartman
Reviewed by Janet J for Readers Favorite Anatomy of a Kidnapping; A Doctor's Story is a perfect title for this book, as its author, Steven L. Berk is a physician who responded to the events of March 6, 2005, with the instincts and skills he had honed in his many years of practicing medicine. On that day, an armed man entered his home, took him captive, and forced him into a white van. For two hours, Dr. Berk dealt with a meth-addicted felon with a history of violence who was looking for money to score more drugs. Although the defense attorney and others questioned the choices he made during his ordeal at the hands of this psychopath (when Berk might have had opportunities to flee), Berk justifies and explains these choices logically; he evaluated the situation and did what he thought was best for his family and himself under the circumstances. I would never challenge that statement. Certainly the outcome suggests he made many wise choices in dealing with his captor, and that only he could evaluate the terrifying situation in which he found himself and determine the strategies he would use to deal with it. This is an engrossing book that details not only the kidnapping of Dr. Berk, but also contains many fascinating anecdotes from his years as a physician that helped to develop his particular method of assessing situations and acting accordingly. "In times of crisis," he writes, "no matter the nature, a physician must do his best to promote calm, rational solutions to any problem. Even when emotions are running high and a situation is getting out of control, a physician must stay impassive and composed, and practice clear judgment." Even at the trial, Dr. Beck addressed the man who had held a shotgun to his head and changed his life forever, and said, "Someday I hope you admit to your crimes and ask forgiveness." The book also contains excerpts of testimony from the trial and newspaper articles relating to the case, which contain information from other points of view, adding more depth to the story. A term Berk often uses is "aequanimitas" which Dr. William Osler defines as: "imperturbability . . . Imperturability means coolness and presence of mind under all circumstances, calmness amid storm, and clearness of judgment in moments of great peril, immobility, impassiveness. It is the quality which is most appreciated by the laity though often misunderstood by them." The most moving part of the book comes at the end, when in a dream, Dr. Berk is able to make amends for mistakes he has made in his life and learns of treatments and research that benefited others, many of which he had not known. Later, imagining the worst scenario, he writes a touching letter to his son. His address to students at a white coat ceremony, when they begin the study of medicine and take the Hippocratic Oath, is also included and has a powerful message of the need to develop compassion, honesty and respect as they continue in their training. Berk explains how his own concept of aequanimitas was strengthened and refined by his kidnapping as he concludes: "Jack Lindsey Jordan taught me a lesson using his temper, his shotgun, his attempt at intimidation. I could not afford to fret over small things or imagined fears again. I would celebrate my life, my experiences, and my contributions at every opportunity. I would fear no evil, large or small. I had become much closer to a life of aequanimitas. Perhaps that is the most important les