From Whiskey Anesthesia to a 3D-Printed Heart

125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital on Display at the Frazier


Brace yourself. The following is a bit, um, tough to stomach: “With anesthesia not yet available in 1892, 5-year-old Radford Duff was given a shot of whiskey and salt-packed ice to numb his hip before surgery 125 years ago at Norton Children’s Hospital in Louisville,” reads a press release from the hospital and Frazier History Museum.

But here’s the good news: “Primitive conditions to be sure, but the operation at the first children’s hospital in the south was a big success. Little Radford was healed.”

Miraculous stories like Radford’s are now on display at the Frazier’s “Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital” exhibit and will remain so through Feb. 4, 2018.

The exhibit explores how a devastating tornado in 1890 – which left nearly 300 dead or injured – created calls for a children’s hospital in the region. Civic leader Mary Lafon and her sewing circle raised $6,000 to buy a Victorian house on Chestnut Street, which opened as the hospital two years later. Today, Norton Children’s is a 300-bed hospital that treats more than 170,000 children every year.

Over the past 125 years, the hospital has served the region during many historic moments, including the Great Depression, Great Flood of 1937, World War II, the polio epidemic, desegregation and the deadliest drunk driving crash in U.S. history. The hospital also was the second in the nation to perform a pediatric heart transplant.

The exhibit also allows guests to experience what it’s like to be a patient on an ambulance ride, explore a 3-D heart designed specifically for a local 14-month-old boy, see locally developed medical equipment now being used around the world and encounter tiny diapers designed for premature babies born smaller than the size of a soft-drink can.

The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 W. Main St. in Louisville and is open 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. Monday through Saturday and noon to 5 p.m. Sunday. For more information, call 502.753.5663 or visit

To learn more about Norton Children’s hospital, go to or call 502.629.KIDS (5437).

Today, Norton Children’s is a 300-bed hospital that treats more than 170,000 children every year. 

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