UGA senior returns to U.S. after medical emergency on spring break in Mexico

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Family, friends raised more than $130K for flight costs

A University of Georgia student who suffered a brain hemorrhage while on spring break in Mexico has been returned to the United States for medical treatment.

Family and friends of UGA senior Liza Burke started a GoFundMe page Sunday and raised more than $130,000 to help pay for the medical flight home. Burke was taken to Jacksonville, Florida, where her mother lives.

“Somehow, my friends were able to make enough calls and use the power of mamas to get her back,” Laura McKeithen, Burke’s mother, told Channel 2 Action News.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

McKeithen said Burke has shown promising signs after undergoing emergency surgery in Mexico, including squeezing her hand when asked.

“We are told to take things one day at a time and not get our hopes too high, but to have plenty of hope,” McKeithen told Channel 2.

According to the GoFundMe page, the Asheville, North Carolina, native was on a trip to Cabo San Lucas with a group of friends when she complained of a headache at breakfast Friday morning. She went back to her room to rest, and when her friends later found her there, they couldn’t wake her, the GoFundMe said.

Burke’s friends called a doctor and she was rushed to the hospital, where she was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that caused her brain to hemorrhage, according to the fundraiser’s organizer, Jennifer Ritter. The hemorrhage left Burke unresponsive, Ritter said.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

According to the Mayo Clinic, brain AVM is a tangle of blood vessels connecting veins and arteries, and its causes are not clear. People are typically born with AVM, but it can form later in life and tends to afflict men more than women. AVM is often only discovered after a brain scan for a different health issue or after it causes a hemorrhage, the Mayo Clinic says.

In Burke’s case, Ritter told Channel 2 that she was born with the condition “and nobody knew she had it.”

The amount raised was more than triple the fundraiser’s original $40,000 goal.

“She has so much left to give to the world. Please continue to pray for her full recovery,” Ritter said.