College student suffers brain bleed on spring break in Mexico

Published: Mar. 15, 2023 at 1:12 AM MDT
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. (WSB) - A college student’s trip to Mexico for spring break ended with surgery after her mother says she suffered a brain hemorrhage that required immediate treatment.

Liza Burke, a senior at the University of Georgia, is back with her family on United States soil several days after a frightening medical emergency that landed her in a Mexican hospital.

“I asked her to squeeze my hand. She did. And I was just... my feeling was elated,” said Burke’s mother, Laura McKeithan.

What started as a migraine on Friday, the last day of Burke’s spring break trip to Cabo San Lucas, turned out to be much more serious. Doctors at the hospital diagnosed her with with a brain condition that causes hemorrhaging. She needed emergency surgery.

“We are told we can only take things one day at a time and not to get our hope too high but to certainly have plenty of hope,” McKeithan said.

According to a family friend, Burke was diagnosed with a brain abnormality called arteriovenous malformation, a condition that she is believed to have had since birth without knowing it.

Burke’s family and even the medical staff, her mother says, wanted to get Liza back to the U.S. as quickly as possible.

“The doctors there were so, so caring and really wanted her to get back to the States because they felt that is where she was going to have the best care,” McKeithan said.

Friends and family raised more than $125,000 via GoFundMe to get Burke a medical flight from Mexico to Jacksonville, Florida, where her mother lives. She arrived early Tuesday morning and is now being treated at the Mayo Clinic.

“Just say prayers, prayers for Liza,” McKeithan said.

Burke is slated to graduate in May, but her family says her road to recovery is just beginning.

The American Stroke Association says brain arteriovenous malformations occur in less than 1% of the population. The chance of a bleed is 1% to 3% per year.