Mom of student reveals she’d complained there was ‘something wrong in my head’ before Mexico trip
A University of Georgia senior complained that there was ‘something wrong with my head’ years before a bleed and brain tumor was discovered while she was on Spring Break.
Liza Burke, 21, suffered a brain bleed while she was on vacation in Mexico on March 10 – and has been on a ventilator at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida fighting to survive.
On Monday, Liza’s mother Laura McKeithen told DailyMail.com that her daughter will undergo her first radiation treatment in hopes to shrink an aggressive tumor located on her brain stem that is growing rapidly.
‘My faith is in her and God. This is between her will to fight… she is a fighter and in God’s grace. We are expecting miracles around here,’ she said.
When her daughter first arrived at the Mayo Clinic she became responsive once the sedatives were off – pulling the tube away from her mouth and moving her fingers – but a few days later she had a setback and was no longer responding.
But, on Monday morning Liza started to make some strides by wiggling her toes and squeezing the doctor’s hands.
Liza’s family surrounds her with love at her bedside at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida
Liza and her mother, Laura McKeithen
McKeithen describes her daughter as fearless. A day before she came down with the brain hemorrhage, McKeithen said Liza was jumping off cliffs and enjoying a boat ride and bonfires.
McKeithen told DailyMail.com that her daughter had complained a few times over her four-years in university, but like most college kids she figured it was lack of sleep and stress from school.
‘She’d tell me, ‘I think there is something wrong in my head. I feel like I am going to pass out,’ she said, ‘I assumed it was just a 20-something girl who is under a lot of pressure. The way she said it – it was never a plea… she never seemed like there was an urgency.’
The day before she experienced the brain hemorrhage her mom said her daughter was in Cabo San Lucas with her boyfriend, his fraternity brothers, their girlfriends and other friends.
They were going cliff diving, enjoying a boat ride and a bonfire later in the night. The mom recalled: ‘She was feeling great and she sent me a photo of her doing a handstand.’
The next day, she came down with a massive headache after she finished a workout at the gym. McKeithen said she told her boyfriend she was going to take a nap. When he went back to check on her a few hours later, he was not able to rouse her and rushed her to the hospital.
When McKeithen got the gut-wrenching news about her daughter, doctors told her they placed an EVD line into her brain to drain the fluid — but also told her they weren’t sure how much brain damage she sustained.
McKeithen jumped on the first plane out to Cabo San Lucas as her daughter was experiencing some cardiac issues.
A series of events took place prompting many roadblocks to get Liza out of Mexico and to the Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The medical air ambulance was unable to get to Mexico to transport her daughter via plane because the airport in San Diego was closed because President Biden was in town.
McKeithen was racing against the clock to get her daughter the immediate life-saving medical care she needed.
‘You can’t make this up. It was insane. I have friends who had to call their friends who work for the FAA who were able to get the plane off the ground.’
Liza Burke, pictured right, suffered a serious brain bleed during a spring break trip to Mexico.
Liza and her boyfriend taking a photo together during their spring break trip to Mexico
The Mexican ambulance crew that air lifted Liza to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida that Liza’s mom said ‘were amazing’
The second roadblock was that the airport in Cabo San Lucas shut down for the night and needed to be reopened.
‘It is a small airport and we needed to get them to reopen the airport so the flight could take off.’
On Monday night when they were finally en-route to Jacksonville, Florida she said that the aircraft had to stop in Houston so the plane could refuel.
She said she also had to go through customs. In the early hours of Tuesday morning – nearly four days after her daughter suffered the brain hemorrhage – Liza arrived in Jacksonville at the Mayo Clinic.
‘The crew of the Learjet Mexican Air Ambulance was amazing and it was door-to-door service,’ she said.
McKeithen, who is also the mother of a 26-year-old son. But her other daughter, Edith, ‘Edie’ died in 2008 – due to a rare genetic disorder – Mucopolysarcharidosis type I (MPS I).
She said that her daughter, a dual major at UGA — business management and Spanish — was set to graduate in May and had a job lined up at Mutual of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Liza’s mom said her daughter is currently on a ventilator and breathing on her own but said until she responds to their commands — a toe wiggle or a hand squeeze — the doctors are reluctant to remove the vent.
Her friends called an ambulance after she complained of a headache and than didn’t get up from a nap she had taken
Liza’s mom Laura McKeithen wrote on a GoFundMe that if “you felt led to send a note of encouragement, please send to Liza’s attention at Mayo clinic in Jacksonville.”
She also spoke of how Mexico is her daughter’s favorite country. During her junior year of high school they both lived there and her daughter taught English to young children.
‘Mexico is a very special place,’ she paused. ‘She has to make it.’
Doctors told McKeithen that the tumor was most likely dormant and once it surfaced it grew and then grew fast.
She told DailyMail.com the tumor is in the worst possible place on the brain stem. The area that keeps you alert.
A biopsy was taken on Thursday, she said, which was a very risky procedure because of the tumor’s location. She also said we don’t know enough about the tumor until we get the pathology report back but said the radiation treatment was life and death.
‘I really do think there is a universal energy of something that will cure her it will just be that everyone just keep praying.’
‘Every step of the way we find a way to get over the next hurdle. I don’t think it is by chance but by the prayers and her will.’
A group of Liza’s friends made a heartfelt video – with video messages and photos – sharing their love and sending words of encouragement.
‘Liza I wanted to tell you how much I love you .. how proud I am of you. You are in there fighting so hard. You are so tough… so resilient… so hard-headed,’ Liza’s former field hockey coach Mel said.
‘We know you are going to heal and get better. We are thinking of you everyday. We believe in you.
Sophie, a childhood friend added: ‘We are so proud of all the improvements that you have already made … just keep on fighting. We love you and can’t wait to see you soon.