Patient Treatment

Fresh Air and Bedrest.

Since they did not have antibiotics in the early 1920’s to treat tuberculosis, they had to rely on natural remedies. Daily bedrest out on the solarium porchways was the first and foremost item of importance in treatment. The patients spent most of their stay at the sanatorium out on these “porches”. This included all four seasons. Even in the winter the patients were kept outside in their beds. Electric blankets were developed for sanatoriums such as Waverly. Also, you will notice that the solariums had very large windows, which were NOT glassed in. These window openings were only screened in. This was for the purpose of allowing fresh air to circulate through the hospital to carry away the germs as patients would exhale, sneeze, or cough. Fresh air would replenish whatever they exhaled. This was supposed to be very effective in helping the body get rid of TB.

Good Nutrition and Diet

Tuberculosis patients were required to consume alot of protein in their meals to help build up their immune system in order to help fight off the disease. So, healthy eating habits were second on the list of treatment for TB. Cattle and hogs were raised on the farm property of Waverly Hills for fresh meat. Fruits and vegetables were grown to provide a well balanced diet. And fresh dairy products such as milk, butter and cheese were made possible from the cattle that was raised.

Waverly hills had a large central cafateria as well as small dinning rooms on each floor. These smaller dinning rooms were ideal for patients that were too sick to go to the main cafeteria.


The young children pictured at the right were recieving natural utraviolet treatment from the hot sun. This treatment was called heliotherapy. Heliotherapy was used in the treatment of tuberculosis of the bones, joints, skin, and eyes. There were several reasons for the use of heliotherapy. First of all, the sun acts as a bactericide killing the tubercule bacillus organisms which cause the disease. When a patient is exposed to moderate hot temperatures for extended periods of time it is sufficient to kill of the bacteria and clear up infections. Also, ergosterol (crystalline steroid alcohol), which is present in the skin is converted by the suns rays into vitamin D, which was believed to do further damage to the tubercule bacilli and help to destroy it.

Sunlamp Treatment

Ultraviolet sunlamps were used when weather conditions were too unfavorable outside. This is a historic photo showing a patient recieving treament from a sunlamp in the old original TB clinic building. This was the two story tudor styled building that you can see a picture of if you go back to the front main page of this site.

Pneumothorax & Thoracoplasty

At Waverly, two basic surgical procedures were used to treat TB. Artificial Pneumothorax was one of these techniques, as you see in the archive photo above. It was a way of collapsing, or deflating a portion of the lung thereby giving that part of the lung a chance to heal. Another benefit of collapsing the lung in certain areas is that it would close off any holes that may have been caused by the disease.

Thoracoplasty was a more involved procedure. It involved actually opening up the patients chest area and removing one or several rib cage bones. This was also done to collaspe the lung when deemed neccessary by the doctor. Most patients on average would require the removal of 7-8 ribs, and the surgeons felt it safe only to remove two or three ribs at a time, which meant that sometimes patients had to endure several surgeries before the thoracoplasty was completed. There were some cases which involved literally cutting out a diseased part of the lung. This procedure was called Lobectomy, and is still used today in some cases of lung cancer. It might be noted however that thoracoplasty was only performed as a “last ditch” effort to save a patient if all the other forms of treatment did not help.

Morale Boosters

Another feature of treatment that Waverly had to help patients was occupational therapy. This gave the patients a chance to do something that would get their minds off the daily “humdrum” of laying in bed and worrying about wether or not they would recover from TB. The patients learned how to weave baskets, make brooms, bedspreads, table cloths and other useful odds and ends, which gave them a sense of purpose, kept their nerves calmer and gave them some enjoyment during their long stay at Waverly.

The items that were produced in the occupational therapy rooms by the patients were displayed proudly and sold at the Kentucky State Fair. The money that was raised by selling these crafts at the KY Fair helped to generate funds which would help to refurbish the operating costs of the Waverly Hospital, as continuing efforts were being researched to improve treatment for tuberculosis to ensure treatment for patients.

Radio at Waverly

Headphone radio service was another feature that Waverly offered for the personal enjoyment of their patients. Receptacles were provided between each set of solarium doors so that the patients could plug in headphones and listen to their favorite stations wether it be music, stories, or sports. This helped to pass the time and gave the patients an added measure of enjoyment during their hospital stay.

Click here to learn about a few of Waverly’s former patients.

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