From Whiskey Anesthesia to a 3D-Printed Heart: 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital on Display at the Frazier

LOUISVILLE, Ky., Nov. 13, 2017 — 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, Ky. 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.

“Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital” is on display at the Frazier History Museum now 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, which opened as the hospital two years later. Today, Norton Children’s is 300-bed hospital that treats more than 170,000 children every year.

“Norton Children’s Hospital had humble beginnings but the passion for helping sick and injured children has only continued to grow throughout the decades,” said Thomas D. Kmetz, president of Norton Children’s Hospital. “We’re very excited to showcase our rich history for the world to experience.”

Over the past 125 years, Norton Children’s 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.

“Hope and Healing: Celebrating 125 Years of Norton Children’s Hospital” 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 in surgeries around the world and encounter tiny diapers designed for premature babies born smaller than the size of a soft-drink can.

See a video of the exhibit here.

About Norton Children’s Hospital: As Kentucky and Southern Indiana’s only full-service, free-standing pediatric hospital, Norton Children’s Hospital, along with its predecessor hospitals, have cared for children for more than a century without regard to their families’ ability to pay. The hospital also is an advocate for the health and well-being of all children. The 300-bed hospital is the region’s only Level I Pediatric Trauma Center and serves as the primary pediatric teaching facility for the University of Louisville School of Medicine. Specialists offer comprehensive pediatric care, including a full range of services for congenital and acquired heart disease, cancer care, neurosciences, spine and orthopedic care, and neonatal care. As part of a family of regional facilities that treat more than 170,000 children each year who seek care regardless of their families’ ability to pay, Norton Children’s Hospital and its sister locations rely on support from the community.

About the Frazier History Museum: The Frazier History Museum is located at 829 W. Main St. on Louisville’s downtown “Museum Row.” The Frazier is where the world meets Kentucky, bringing history to life for visitors through exhibits, artifacts and live performances every day. The Frazier is open Monday through Saturday, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m., and Sunday, noon to 5 p.m. For more information, call (502) 753-5663 or visit

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