UGA student Liza Burke, who suffered brain hemorrhage, has tumor

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Weeks ago, a medical plane flew Liza Burke from Mexico to Jacksonville where she could be treated at the Mayo Clinic after suffering a brain hemorrhage while on Spring Break.

The University of Georgia student remained in critical condition Wednesday, and her mother said that while her daughter is breathing on her own, a growing tumor on the 21-year-old’s brain stem is threatening her life.

“They think it may have been dormant for a long time and now suddenly, it’s gone active very quickly,” said Burke’s mother, Laura McKeithan.

While on vacation, Burke had told others she was experiencing a headache and vision problems. The mother said her daughter went to the hotel room and took a nap.

“About four or five hours later, her friends found her unconscious in the room,” McKeithan said.

Burke was taken to a hospital, where doctors quickly recognized a pressure buildup in her brain.

“They put an EVD (External Ventricular Drain) into her brain and basically saved her life by taking the pressure off of her brain,” McKeithan said.

Doctors in Mexico thought she had an irregular connection of arteries and veins in her brain that ruptured. But once she was stabilized and put on a medical flight back to Jacksonville, doctors at the Mayo Clinic discovered the tumor.

Photo of Liza Burke provided by mother. (

Once the sedation wore off, Burke was responsive and tried to talk when she was taken off a ventilator. But her condition started to deteriorate.

“Slowly but surely, she started responding less and less, and an MRI showed the tumor was continuing to grow,” McKeithan said.

As Burke sits in the ICU, she receives daily radiation therapy to shrink the tumor. Her mom says the family has received well wishes from all over, and she believes her daughter will beat the odds.

“The doctors here have said there are always exceptions. I’m determined she’s going to be one of those exceptions,” McKeithan said. “She is going to pull out. She’s got a fighting spirit.”

If she does survive, there are questions about permanent brain damage.

“It’s too early to tell. My goal is to get that energy out there into the universe because I really do feel that there is a lot of power in being able to pray and put that energy into her,” McKeithan said.

In addition to praising the doctors at Mayo Clinic, Liza’s mother also praises the doctors in Mexico who bought her daughter some time until she could be flown back to Jacksonville.

A GoFundMe account was created with a goal of raising $250,000.

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