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Active senior bounces back from major surgery

Leslie Barnings-Joyce is now able to walk her beloved dog, Lady Bug, thanks to the outstanding care she received from UT Physicians. (Photo by: Leslie Barnings-Joyce)
Leslie Barnings-Joyce is now able to walk her beloved dog, Lady Bug, thanks to the outstanding care she received from UT Physicians. (Photo by: Leslie Barnings-Joyce)

Three days after her 68th birthday, Leslie Barnings-Joyce from Houston took a tumble that would later earn her the nickname of “Superwoman.”

Her day started like most days for the retired mother of two and grandmother of seven, until she took a nasty fall after getting her legs caught in some computer cords in her home office.

“I could tell I was going to fall, so I turned myself so that I wouldn’t go headfirst into the door,” said Barnings-Joyce. “Instead, I landed on my rear, but somehow I was able to get up.”

Her husband was out of town at the time, so she continued to manage until about 10 days later when she decided to let Taggart Gauvain, MD, an orthopedic surgeon with UT Physicians, check her out.

Walking on a broken femur

“After examining Leslie’s right leg, it was evident that she had broken her hip along the neck of her femur. The femur is the biggest bone in the body, but where it meets the hip, it can be seriously injured in a fall,” said Gauvain, who is also an assistant professor of orthopedic surgery at McGovern Medical School at The University of Texas Health Science Center at Houston (UTHealth). “It’s beyond me how she was able to continue to walk on it as she did.” Gauvain and his team informed Barnings-Joyce that she would need to have surgery to repair her broken hip right away.

Barnings-Joyce knew right away that she couldn’t be sidelined for long. Although retired from the sporting goods industry, multiple people in her life were counting on her. She channeled her grandmother, who used to tell her that if her mind were strong, then that strength would heal her body.

Did it ever.

“Superwoman” makes speedy recovery

Gauvain performed the surgery on a Tuesday, and the next day, she was able to go home. He and his team soon dubbed Barnings-Joyce “Superwoman” because of her fast and painless recovery.

“Dr. Gauvain is an awesome surgeon! I remember declaring ‘He fixed me!’ after the surgery,” said Barnings-Joyce. “Everyone on his team was amazing and worked hard to promote healing. They were detailed, keeping me informed and reassured every step of the way. They gave me the confidence I was in the right place.”

When she did return home, her husband had gone to Memphis for a few days (prior and would remain there for two and a half months) to take care of his elderly mother. With her husband unavailable to help her, Barnings-Joyce was on her own for her therapy. She stretched and strengthened her legs. Gradually, she was able to lift her leg and bend her knee. She also walked carefully up and down their carpeted stairs – approximately 14 steps.

Returning to an active lifestyle

“Two months after Dr. Gauvain’s brilliant surgery, I was able to walk without a limp and without any pain. He released me for full activity,” she said.

Thanks to Gauvain and his team, Barnings-Joyce is back to leading her active life with her husband, a retired U.S. Army helicopter veteran. She also is involved with First Tee, a program that teaches youth about character building through the game of golf and loves to walk her beloved dog, Lady Bug, a Belgian Shepherd mix.

“I’m so fortunate to live in a city where I have access to such great medical care,” said Barnings-Joyce. “Dr. Gauvain and his team made all the difference.”

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