11 January 2016


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Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales
Author: Tom Hutton MD

Genre: memoir
Publisher: Texas Tech University Press
Date of Publication: December 7, 2015
# of pages: 240

In his thirty-plus years of practicing medicine, physician and neurologist Tom Hutton discovered that a doctor’s best teachers are often his patients. From these extraordinary individuals, Hutton gained a whole-hearted respect for the resourcefulness, courage, and resilience of the human spirit. Hutton’s patients—and the valuable lessons they taught—served as the inspiration for Carrying the Black Bag.

Carrying the Black Bag invites readers to experience what it’s 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—during a paralyzing Minnesota blizzard.  

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.



        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 Heughten, author of USA Bestseller 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, MD, 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, newspaper columnist and author of Texas Depression-Era Desperadoes, and Murders Most Texan

        A wonderful journey through the training, practice, triumphs, and travails of a dedicated physician.
        -D. P. Lyle, MD, author of Dub Walker and Samantha Cody thriller series.

Chapter 9
Heavy double doors banged behind me. I located the unidentified woman responsible for my stat page. A glance revealed a small body eclipsed by monitors, a wheezing ventilator, and a virtual spaghetti bowl of wires and catheters.
Somewhere across the intensive care unit, a ventilator alarm shrieked, a telephone jingled, and infusion pumps thrummed. Nurses with intent facial expressions scurried about the unit on rubber-soled shoes, providing care for these, the very sickest of the hospital’s sick.
(Her husband arrives and provides a surprisingly poignant description, transforming his wife in my eyes)
“Doc, do everything you can.” His voice cracked and faltered before struggling on. He finally blurted out, “I…I love that old gal.”
After his description I no longer could think of Maggie Croft as a shriveled old woman with failing physiology. She had become an energetic harvester who had struggled through desperate decades tightly bonded to her husband. She had evoked the strongest display of public emotion of which I felt Ned Croft capable.
And struggle to save her life we did. We addressed her brain swelling to eke out precious millimeters of space within her skull to buy time for the blood clot to recede. We tried every management strategy to salvage the life of Maggie Croft—but in the end our efforts came to naught.
I recall Ned’s slow pace as he departed the intensive care unit. He pushed at the swinging doors, opening them a crack. Ned glanced back at his deceased wife’s body, his eyes vacant. Ned Croft with his tattered appearance and pained emotions was abruptly lost from view as the doors slammed shut behind him. The complexity of love has baffled the wisest sages. But for me, Ned’s simple utterance said it best. “Doc, I love that old gal.”

Excerpt from Carrying the Black Bag: A Neurologist’s Bedside Tales (Texas Tech University Press) by Tom Hutton, MD

Tom Hutton, M. D., is an internationally-recognized clinical and research neurologist and educator. The past president of the Texas Neurological Society, Dr. Hutton served as professor and vice chairman of the Department of Medical and Surgical Neurology at the Texas Tech School of Medicine. He now lives on his cattle ranch near Fredericksburg, Texas.

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