An appreciative reader penned the review below for the Journal of Neurological Sciences. It has been accepted and is now in print online.
While the predominant audience for Carrying The Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales was thought to be a popular audience, the book has also been very well received by physicians, nurses, and allied health personnel. This acceptance has proved most gratifying for the author as my book deals principally with a humanistic approach to medicine. The author of the book review, Dr. Steve Roach, got it! For this I am most grateful.
Carrying The Black Bag makes a great Christmas (Hanukkah) gift and can be purchased from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Texas Tech University Press, as well as your local independent bookstore.
Dr. Roach’s review is as follows:
Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales, by Tom Hutton, 240 pages. Texas Tech University Press, 2015. $27.95.
- Steve Roach, MD
Ohio State University
Key words: humanism; history of medicine; Parkinson disease
Thomas Hutton is a retired neurologist whose career spanned four decades. During this time, he witnessed the introduction of computed tomography, magnetic resonance imaging, and numerous new medications. He experienced the dawn of the genetic revolution and the arrival of the electronic medical record. But this book is about people, not technology, so it is fitting that the metaphor Hutton selected for the title of his reminiscences is the traditional black physician’s bag.
Hutton is a master story teller whose patient sketches are reminiscent of those of A. R. Luria and Oliver Sachs. He studied with Luria and duly credits the influence of both men. Hutton intermingles his own story with those of his patients, telling of the football injury that led to his becoming a doctor and his days as a trainee with A. B. Baker. There is even an entertaining medical detective story about a man with repeated arsenic poisoning.
But the heart and soul of this book are the lovingly told patient stories. Never have I read a more poignant tale of love lost than Hutton’s account of Maggie and Ned, two poor migrant workers who had been life-long soul-mates until Maggie’s sudden death. One cannot help but smile at the elderly man who pleaded for relief after his girlfriend developed nymphomania due to her Parkinson disease medication. There is a sweet story about an elderly man who made sandwiches each afternoon for three dogs who came to play pinochle, a complex but pleasant hallucination resulting from his medication. Whether sad or funny, Hutton’s patient stories are respectfully told and never patronizing.
To practice humanistic medicine, one must be in touch with one’s own humanity. Clearly the author has a deep respect for people and a keen eye for the human condition. This is an entertaining book that most physicians will enjoy reading. It also offers an effective antidote for the technology overload of today’s medicine and a glimpse at what medicine once was and could be again.