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Rehab Hall of Fame Honors Patient’s Dedication

Rehabilitation Hall of Fame Ethan Payne

February 21, 2022

Physical therapists and occupational therapists at The University of Kansas Health System honored their 2021 inductee into the Rehabilitation Hall of Fame.

Ethan Payne suffered serious burns in a 2020 car accident, which claimed the life of his younger brother, Caden. But thanks to his extraordinary commitment during rehabilitation, Payne has returned to playing football at McPherson College in central Kansas.

The Rehabilitation Hall of Fame recognizes achievements of patients who have overcome significant medical challenges, and it celebrates the efforts of the care team that helped them on their journeys.

Payne, originally from Texas, was honored December 28 in a ceremony at the Acute Inpatient Rehabilitation Unit at The University of Kansas Health System’s Main Campus in Kansas City.

Here is his award presentation, written by occupational therapist Jama Westlund:

“While the world sat in lockdown during the COVID-19 pandemic, Ethan Payne prepared to play football on a scholarship to McPherson College in central Kansas. He was a good student who enjoyed spending time with his family, playing the saxophone and working out.

On June 6, 2020, Ethan was involved in a car accident that took the life of his younger brother, Caden, and severely injured Ethan. He was emergently transported to the burn unit at The University of Kansas Health System.

Ethan’s injuries were extensive. He sustained burns to 74% of his body. The burns and subsequent skin grafts extended across his legs, arms, back, stomach and face. His right elbow was dislocated.

Along with his recovery from the extensive physical injuries, Ethan grieved for his brother, the drastic changes to his physical appearance and his plans to return to football in the fall.

Ethan spent 2 long months on the burn unit at our health system. During that time, he underwent many skin graft surgeries and endured excruciating pain. He transferred to our health system’s rehabilitation unit in August 2020.

When Ethan arrived at rehab, he was able to walk but was unable to stand fully upright due to the burns on his stomach and back. The burns on his face made it difficult to open his mouth to talk and chew. Basic activities like going to the bathroom, dressing and grooming were challenging due to the burns and grafts on his arms and hands.

Ethan was dedicated to recovery and gave his best effort every day. He worked with physical, occupational and speech therapists to restore his range of motion and return to his daily activities. His nursing and physician teams worked to manage his pain and ensure the proper healing of his wounds.

Ethan walked out of the rehab unit September 17, 2020, able to care for himself. He continued his recovery in outpatient therapy and with frequent follow-up visits to our health system’s burn clinic.

His recovery has been remarkable, although challenges do still exist. He is unable to fully straighten his right elbow and has difficulty regulating his body temperature. A radial nerve injury does not allow him to actively move his left wrist or fingers.

Despite these challenges, Ethan has returned to college and is playing football as a linebacker. He continues to grieve the loss of his brother but enjoys spending time with his family when he is back in Kansas City.

We thank Ethan for the lessons we have learned from your story: to cherish every day with our loved ones, to persevere through adversity, and that independence and happiness are still possible after loss and injury.”

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