Carrying the Black Bag is a story of a doctor’s interactions with his patients. Told very much in the style of the late Oliver Sacks (who was a colleague of Dr. Hutton), the stories in this volume recount some of the notable patients that Dr. Tom Hutton encountered as part of his forty-year practice in neurology. Dr. Hutton’s storytelling is entertaining, and the incredible people he treats will keep the pages of this book turning for most readers. However, something, perhaps a doctor’s ingrained discretion, keeps this book short and focused as much on the physician as on his patients. While enjoyable, a combination of the author’s generic Christian ethos and the brevity of the volume make this read somewhat like a Reader’s Digest. It makes for entertaining and generally uplifting reading, but don’t expect a life-changing perspective.
Even in this mostly predictable book, as few moments come through as imparting true character and personal strength in the face of the difficulty imparted by neurological issues. Dr. Hutton’s remembrance of receiving his own black bag is one of these. At this moment, Hutton breaks through his own professional reserve and the reader can sense the passion that inspired him to become a doctor in the first place. A few of the patients in this book also make this break through. One in particular, a reserved, older farmer from Texas shows the importance of the doctor-patient bond, and the importance of really listening to a patient, a kind of medical care that is often lost or overlooked in our more fast-paced, money-driven medical world. This book would be an excellent choice for readers who have friends or family members suffering with neurological issues. It explains some of the basics without being too technical, in-depth, or overly graphic. Readers who are looking for greater insight into the neurology would do better to look elsewhere.
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