Carrying the Black Bag, A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales

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Carrying the Black Bag book The scheduled publication date is December 7, 2015, and you can order it on Amazon or Barnes & Noble or Texas Tech University Press.

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Here’s a description of the book:

During his thirty-plus years of practicing in West Texas and Minnesota, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these (extra)ordinary individuals, he gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit.

Part memoir and part homage to those patients who faced major illness with grace, grit, and dignity, Carrying the Black Bag invites readers to experience what it is like to be a doctor’s hands, eyes, and heart. Imagine the joy of witnessing a critically ill five-year-old who, against all odds, claws her way back from a coma and near certain death. Meet a lonely Texas widower with Parkinson’s disease who hosts elaborate pinochle parties for a pack of imaginary canines. Step into the surgical booties of the author when he attempts to deliver his own child amid heart-stopping obstetrical complications.

Through real-life patient narratives, Hutton shines light on ordinary people facing extraordinary challenges. Moreover, this captivating tale captures the drama of medicine—its mystery, pathos, heroism, sacrifice, and humor.

For more than just those working in the healthcare profession, Carrying the Black Bag also shares a behind-the-curtain peek at the rapidly changing American health care system.

Published by Texas Tech University Press: Memoir/Medicine; 6 x 9, 240 pages; $27.95
pb 978-0-89672-954-4

goodreads rating


5.0 out of 5 stars  “One of the best medical memoirs I have read.”
By Yankee Cowboy

Rarely, does a book make me laugh, much less cry. I did both while reading Tom Hutton’s memoir of selected case histories. I cried for an eight year old girl who miraculously recovered from a terrible disease. I laughed frequently at Hutton’s superb use of similes. For example, “as slow as a caterpillar with sore feet.” I could cite many others.
Mostly, I love this book for the deeply personal and compassionate way Hutton describes his patients. Along with Hutton, as a result of this book, I am again truly in awe of the capacity of human beings to cope bravely and spiritedly despite debilitating diseases. Hutton spends a lot of time discussing Parkinson’s disease. My father died at age 90 of complications from Parkinson’s. I wish my dad could have known Dr. Tom Hutton. Dr. Hutton, I saw many doctors carrying black bags in my life. Fortunately for me, they were a lot like you.

5.0 out of 5 stars   “One of my favorite stories is the one about Sam”
By Amazon Customer

This book is a readable, entertaining and thoughtful insight into one of our nation’s physicians as he reveals a lifetime of truly ‘caring’ for his patients. His portrayals demonstrate a rare human soul who, though a talented physician, is not willing to simply diagnose and treat an illness but seeks to heal more than just the body. One of my favorite stories is the one about Sam, an old cotton farmer and Parkinson’s patient who plays Pinochle with a group of imaginary dogs. After coming to the conclusion that Sam’s hallucinations need to be curtailed Dr. Hutton explains to Sam, “a healthy persons body is like a wagon being pulled by a team of 8 horses, with Parkinson’s, only two healthy horses remain.” He then goes on to explain that Sam was receiving “too much treatment” or was “whipping the two remaining healthy horses too hard” and thus soliciting the hallucinations. His homilies are infused with the vernacular of his patients and further demonstrate his deep caring and concern for the humanness of his patients. I found the book enlightening, uplifting and inspirational.

5.0 out of 5 stars   “My favorite chapter introduces us to Maggie and her beloved of 60 years, Ned.”
By Amazon customer

Carrying the Black Bag is a gem! Dr Hutton gives us an up close and personal perspective of many of his patients and each one grows in front of our eyes into a full story with rich emotions and context. My favorite chapter introduces us to Maggie and her beloved of 60 years, Ned. Maggie, when we meet her is in an irreversible comma which takes her life. But as we learn through Ned’s loving and devoted eyes Maggie becomes, instead of a “shriveled up old woman with failing physiology”, an “energetic and skillful harvester” and we are left with Ned’s grief and his words “Doc, I love that old gal; she picked cotton like she was fighting fire”.
I laughed out loud and several times shed tears with Dr. Hutton’s skillful writing. He shows us how caring and insightful a physician can be.

5.0 out of 5 stars   “Hutton’s wonderful book. Read this book”
By jaylin

I can only add emphasis to the praises of Dr. Hutton’s wonderful book. Read this book. It is a rare gift. Vignettes comprising this book are culled from the author’s over thirty years as a physician, neurologist, scholar and teacher. The stories are told with honesty, humility, humor, and respect for his patients and their courage, strength, and ingenuity. Dr. Hutton applies the same dedication to his writing that he obviously did to his calling as a physician. He weaves in just enough medical fact and historical background to keep the reader moving effortlessly through the stories without losing the narrative focus and intrigue. The stories stand alone as gems and together enrich our knowledge and appreciation of the complexity and mystery linking neurological medicine to the human spirit.

5.0 out of 5 stars    “Real Stories about What Medicine Should Be About”
By La Nelle

In today’s world of electronic medical records and insurance led medicine, Carrying the Black Bag is a refreshing story of a real reason to practice medicine. Dr. Hutton weaves stories involving patients and life-long love of animals that are funny, poignant and thought provoking. The book contains stories of real connections to patients as human beings and how they shaped his life with their illnesses and lives, even many years after the encounters. My favorite chapters are “The Learning Curve” and “Mind Spark”. These stories remind us that a diagnosis isn’t always just the obvious facts but requires curiosity, determination and a real interest in patients as human beings first and not just another chart. The book examines enduring truths about family, story, fears and human nature.

5.0 out of 5 stars    “Reading Carrying the Black Bag is like watching Marcus Welby”
By Judith A. Ungeron

Reading Carrying the Black Bag is like watching Marcus Welby, MD. In both cases, the doctor’s humanity and respect for his patients is front and center. Hutton is a natural story teller, and this memoir is a collection of stories about patients he cared for and cared about. In each story, he describes the patient’s condition and how he/she was was reacting and faring. An interesting inclusion is his discussion of Adolf Hitler and his conclusion – based on visual observation of Hitler’s movements in old films and news reels- that Hitler did indeed have Parkinson’s disease and that this condition impacted his ability to conduct effective warfare, especially concerning the Allies’ invasion of Normandy. All in all, this is an informative and engaging read.

5.0 out of 5 stars    “Hutton carries the capacity to notice and share the moments of humor and delight that live in the same neighborhoods as complex and deteriorating conditions.”
By Michael

There are many starting gates that open the path to compassion and meaning in life. Tom Hutton describes the potential for medicine to be one of those. It’s not inevitable. Hutton’s intention to see through the point of view of his patients, combined with the focus of his curiosity and the dedication of his intellect to contribute to their healing, leads to remarkably intimate and dramatic stories. Along with the black bag, Dr. Hutton carries the capacity to notice and share the moments of humor and delight that live in the same neighborhoods as complex and deteriorating conditions.

5.0 out of 5 stars    “I highly recommend this book to all who are about to enter any field of physical or mental health.”
By Dr. Jim M. Spriuiell

Dr. Tom Hutton, in his book, Carrying the Black Bag will entrance the reader immediately with his masterful way of storytelling. A gifted writer with the heart of a psychotherapist , the soul of a priest, and the training of a skilled physician, he will capture you and transport you into the interview room with him as he visits with his patients. I highly recommend this book to all who are about to enter any field of physical or mental health.


Early Praise for Carrying the Black Bag

“Each story slipped into The Black Bag is a shining jewel, polished to perfection and written with empathy, sensitivity and humor. Hutton brings to life a doctor’s unflagging dedication to the human condition as a healer with utmost respect for each patient fortunate enough to be graced by his compassion and commitment. Every tale, once begun, entrances.”

Antoinette van Heugten, author of USA Bestsellers Saving Max and The Tulip Eaters

“Being a physician is a privilege, in no small part because of the powerful insight it provides into the human condition. Tom Hutton addresses themes of interest to all readers – love, loyalty, family and mortality – and shows how he could affect a positive outcome, and how he, in turn, was changed by those for whom he cared.”

William L. Henrich, M.D., MACP president, University of Texas Health Science Center at San Antonio

“How many doctors have you come across who can write this well, especially for the lay reader? He’s a natural, that’s for sure! Carrying the Black Bag is a must-read for anyone interested in following a wonderful doctor on his rounds.”

Bartee Haile, Texas history author and newspaper columnist