The world has been following the story of Liza Burke, a charming 21-year-old senior at the University of Georgia, who had arranged a final spring break excursion to Cabo for 53 friends before graduation. However, she suffered a brain hemorrhage during the trip and was later diagnosed with a malignant brain tumor. Rendering it her last adventure.
Held tightly by her brother’s hand, lying in the bed beside her, Liza Burke took her final breath and peacefully drifted into eternal slumber. Following her passing on April 28, her mother, Laura McKeithen, revealed that “her brother slept on the sofa and held her hand all night long. She drew her last breath with Jack holding her hand.”
Liza’s mother, who described her daughter as someone who “lived life to the fullest” and was “authentically and unapologetically herself,” offers a valuable piece of advice. “Don’t waste time worrying about trivial matters. Just go for it.”
This philosophy was what propelled Liza Burke, a bold and intrepid individual who was passionate about exploring the world
While vacationing in Cabo, Liza shared pictures with her mother of her doing handstands on the beach, boating, and cliff diving. The group gathered around a beach bonfire on her final night, singing and sharing stories. After working out with her boyfriend the next morning, she left breakfast early, complaining of a blinding headache. Later that day, she was discovered unconscious in bed after taking a nap.
Mexican physicians discovered that Liza had a brain hemorrhage. Then suspecting a ruptured Arteriovenous Malformation (AVM) removed a part of her skull to halt the bleeding. Liza’s mother quickly flew to be by her side, and together, they returned to their home state of Florida. Where she was admitted to the Mayo Clinic. Doctors there dismissed the possibility of AVM and determined that she had an aggressive, malignant tumor in her brainstem.
And then she woke up
Laura recalled the moment when Liza woke up from sedation, explaining how her daughter removed the ventilator from her mouth. The doctors were concerned about her ability to breathe on her own, but Liza was fine. The tumor caused difficulties for Liza, who kept drifting in and out of sleep due to the part of her brain that kept her awake being under stress.
Despite this, Liza communicated by squeezing her mother’s hand or wiggling her toes when she was awake. Laura asked Liza if she was scared, but Liza did not squeeze her hand in response. Liza had a few more days with her family and friends after she started radiation treatment, during which she was doing squats, riding a bike, and trying to walk.
Read: Fit and Healthy 10-year-old Girl Tragically Dies Suddenly After Collapsing from Suspected Brain Hemorrhage
But at this stage, things were not looking good
However, a few days later, doctors discovered a new hemorrhage on Liza’s brain. Knowing her daughter’s energetic spirit, Laura did not want Liza to be intubated again. And this led to conversations with the medical team. Laura wondered if the headaches Liza had in her freshman year were early signs of the brain tumor, and if they had caught it earlier, would her daughter still be alive?
During a conversation with Liza’s oncologist, Laura asked if her daughter could have been saved if they had detected the brain tumor earlier. When Liza first mentioned her concerns. The oncologist replied that they would eventually end up in the same situation they were in at that moment.
Despite the treatment failing, Liza’s mother wanted to find a place where her daughter could be happy—with the help of an Airbnb owner, she rented a beachfront property for a month for hospice care. During that time, Liza was alert but unable to speak, communicating with gestures from her mouth or eyelids and wiggling her toes.
A peaceful resting place for Liza Burke
On April 27th, Liza’s family and friends watched her favorite movie, Interstellar, with Matthew McConaughey and Jessica Chastain. After the movie, Liza’s mother Laura went to her own room, knowing that if she stayed with Liza, she would probably be too overwhelming for her daughter. Liza passed away at around 2 am Friday, sleeping hand in hand with her brother Jack.
“She took a final breath, sighed and transitioned into the next realm,” Laura said. “Liza has now been reunited with her sister and they are making up for lost time!” Liza’s older sister, Edie, died in 2008 from a rare genetic disorder known as MPS1.
In her online journal, Laura wrote, “If I could, I would hang onto Liza and follow her.” On May 2nd, Laura received a class project from Liza’s senior year of high school – a letter Liza wrote to her future self. Liza’s teacher promised to mail the letters to the students when they graduated from college. Liza would have graduated on May 12, 2023.
A beautiful tribute to a beautiful young woman
“It was just beautiful. It was all her,” Laura said. She plans to read excerpts from the letter at Liza’s memorial. Liza was cremated, and her mother plans to scatter her ashes in the mountains and possibly in Mexico. Laura remembers her daughter as a brave, fearless, adventurous, and joyful young woman.
“That tumor may have taken her life, but it didn’t slow her down. She lived life,” Laura said. “Her legacy is to live life to its fullest, every day. What I want people to know is that she freaking did life well. I wish that I could do my life as well as she’s done in her life.” Laura is asking for contributions to The Liza and Edie Burke Education Fund to “honor two sisters and the genuine, dynamic, playful and fierce way they gave back to the world.”
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