ATHENS, Ga. - A University of Georgia student who went to Mexico for spring break is now she is fighting to stay alive after suffering a brain hemorrhage. Liza Burke’s family is scheduled to fly her back to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida for a possible life-saving operation.
Family friend Jennifer Ritter says Burke was on spring break in Cabo San Lucas when suddenly something felt wrong.
Ritter says Burke was always the life of the party, but when she went to breakfast with her friends last Friday, she began feeling gravely ill.
"She woke up Friday morning feeling great," Ritter said. "(She) went to breakfast with her friends, started having a headache, and it got really bad."
Burke, a senior and a business major at UGA thought it was a severe headache.
"She was describing it as a migraine. She went back to her hotel to lay down, took some medicine and slept," Ritter said.
Her friends went to check on her.
"When her friends came back to wake her up they couldn’t wake her," Ritter said.
Burke was rushed to the hospital in Mexico.
"She had bleeding on her brain," Ritter said.
Doctors performed emergency surgery. Ritter says the medical team discovered Burke suffered from a genetic condition previously unknown to her or her family.
"She has a condition called AVM," Ritter said.
Liza Burke (Supplied)
Arteriovenous Malformation is a tangling veins and arteries in the body, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine. It can develop anywhere in the body, but often occurs in the brain or spinal cord.
"She is on life support," Ritter said.
Ritter set up a GoFundMe page to help pay for emergency flight. The family’s initial goal was $40,000. They’ve exceeded $115,000 so far.
"Every second counts right now. She desperately needs to get to the United States where they have experience with dealing with her condition," Ritter said.
Burke is heavily sedated.
She was scheduled to graduate in May. Ritter says Burke already had a job lined up in Charlotte, North Carolina. All that may have to wait as her family waits for her prognosis.
What is AVM?
According to John Hopkins University Medicine, arteriovenous malformations is when blood vessels form incorrectly. The malformation bypasses normal tissue and capillaries between arteries and veins.
Typically, AVM happens at birth or shortly after. Its cause is not known.
There are no initial symptoms, but typically is found when other unrelated health concerns are addressed. Often times, this means a rupture of one of those blood vessels.
Fewer than 4% of cases lead to hemorrhages and only 1% lead to death. Sometimes AVM is only found during an autopsy.
There are four stages with Stage 1 which may manifest as warm and pink skin, to a pulse being felt, to pain and bleeding, and finally, heart failure at Stage 4.
There is no known cure for AVM, but the symptoms can be managed. A surgeon may be brought in to help to ease the issue.