Georgia college student who complained of headache on spring break in Mexico suffers brain bleed

A University of Georgia college student suffered a brain haemorrhage while on spring break in Mexico, leaving her temporarily on life support.

Liza Burke from North Carolina remained in hospital at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida, as of Wednesday.

Ms Burke was a few months from graduating when she went on the trip to Cabo San Lucas with friends, according to McClatchy News.

On Friday 10 March, Ms Burke had a headache, describing it as a migraine, prompting her to leave breakfast and go to her room for some rest, family friend Jennifer Ritter told WAGA.

When her friends couldn’t wake her a few hours later, she was taken to hospital.

Her mother, Laura McKeithen, told WXIA that when her daughter got to the hospital, she was comatose.

The family said in a statement to McClatchy that the Asheville, North Carolina, resident was diagnosed with brain bleed prompted by an arteriovenous malformation – a tangle of blood vessels which leads to arteries and veins being wrongly linked, according to the Mayo Clinic. The tangles can rupture, leading to a brain bleed, which is also called a haemorrhage.

Liza Burke (GoFundMe / Friends Of Liza Burke)
Liza Burke (GoFundMe / Friends Of Liza Burke)

Ms Burke had emergency surgery during which part of her skull was removed, Ms Ritter told WSB. The student was then placed on life support. She returned with her family to the US on 14 March, McKeithen told McClatchy.

“I started talking to her and asked her to squeeze my hand she squeezed my hand. The intensive care unit pretty much lit up. At that point everyone was very happy,” the mother told WXIA.

“Liza’s family and friends are extremely grateful for the outpouring of love, support, and generosity from so many during this unimaginably difficult time,” the family said in its statement. “Her mom, Laura McKeithen, and Liza’s family, ask for continued prayers for her recovery.”

Ms McKeithen told the outlet that doctors have removed her temporary pacemaker and have taken her off all medications apart from those limiting pain.

She’s now breathing on her own and the pressure in her skull is within a good range and there’s no drainage.

She remains on a ventilator to make sure that her airways stay clear, the mother told McClatchy. A CT scan revealed that her situation hasn’t worsened and the family is also awaiting MRI results.

Ms McKeithen told the outlet that her daughter’s pupils are reacting to light and that she has begun “squeezing hands, wiggling toes and even lifting her head from the pillow”.

She also managed to lift her arms.

“This morning the doctor told us to expect some good days and some bad,” Ms McKeithen said. “I would say today is a good day!”

Ms Ritter started a GoFundMe fundraiser, which raised nearly $144,000. Ms Burke was described as “genuine, dynamic, playful and fierce,” by friends, according to a description of the fundraiser.

“Ever since Liza was a little girl, I’ve only ever seen her smiling and full of joy, embracing life to its fullest,” one person wrote on Facebook. “Liza Burke has so much still to give to the world.”

“Liza is extraordinary – a bright, sparkling light,” another added.

“To some of you she may be a stranger, but to so many on UGA’s campus she is a friend,” a third said.