UGA senior improving back in U.S. after brain bleed on spring break

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

After a week in two hospitals in different countries, a University of Georgia student who suffered a brain hemorrhage while on spring break is starting to improve.

Liza Burke was enjoying her trip to Mexico with a group of friends when she complained of a headache at breakfast March 10. She went back to her room to rest, and when her friends later found her there, they couldn’t wake her, a GoFundMe page states.

The UGA senior continues fighting and is slowly showing signs of improvement, the fundraiser’s organizer Jennifer Ritter said Friday. Burke can squeeze her mother’s hand and nod or shake her head in response to questions.

“Liza’s care team is doing all they can to work towards the next steps,” Ritter said. “Please continue to pray for Liza and her family as they endure this unimaginably difficult time.”

Burke, who is a native of Asheville, North Carolina, spent three nights in a hospital in Cabo San Lucas. Ritter said Burke was diagnosed with an arteriovenous malformation (AVM) that caused her brain to hemorrhage. The hemorrhage left Burke unresponsive, Ritter added.

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.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The GoFundMe campaign, which was closed Friday, amassed more than $140,000. That money was used to pay for the medical flight to Jacksonville, Florida, where Burke’s mother lives, Ritter said.

Since being admitted to a hospital Tuesday, Burke has begun to smile and open her eyes more, Burke’s mother, Laura McKeithen, told McClatchy News.

But there are still so many unknowns.

McKeithen told the newspaper that after several tests the cause of her daughter’s brain bleed has become more uncertain. Doctors think the bleeding could have been caused by a growth on her brain stem, which could have been bleeding for a long time, instead of an AVM.

“It’s still too early to be 100%,” McKeithen told McClatchy News. “Once the blood clears, we’ll know for sure.”