A University of Georgia college student complained there was “something wrong with my head” years before she discovered a bleeding brain tumor while on spring break.
Lisa Burke, 21, suffered a brain hemorrhage while on vacation in Mexico on March 10 — and was on a ventilator at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida as she struggled to stay alive.
On Monday, Lisa’s mother Laura McKeithen told DailyMail.com that her daughter will undergo her first radiation treatment in hopes of shrinking the aggressive tumor located in her rapidly growing brainstem.
My faith in her and in God. This is between her will to fight…she is a fighter and in God’s grace. “We expect miracles here,” she said.
When her daughter first arrived at the Mayo Clinic, she became responsive once the sedatives wore off — pulling the tube away from her mouth and moving her fingers — but after a few days she had a relapse and was no longer responsive.
But on Monday morning, Lisa started taking some steps by wiggling her toes and squeezing the doctor’s hands.
Lisa’s family surrounds her with love at her bedside at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida
Lisa and her mother, Laura McKeithen, smile
McKeithen describes her daughter as fearless. The day before her cerebral hemorrhage, McKeithen said Lisa was jumping off cliffs and enjoying a boat ride and a bonfire.
McKeithen told DailyMail.com that her daughter complained several times during her four years at university, but like most college students, she thought it had something to do with lack of sleep and stress from school.
“I think there’s something wrong with my head I feel like I’m going to pass out,” she told me, “I just assumed she was a twenty-something under a lot of stress. The way she said it – it was never a plea… She never seemed like there was persistent need.
The day before she had a brain hemorrhage, her mother said her daughter was in Cabo San Lucas with her boyfriend, his brothers, and their girlfriends and other friends.
They would go cliff diving, enjoy boat rides and have a campfire later at night. “She was feeling really good and sent me a picture of herself with her hands up,” the mother recalled.
The next day, she developed a severe headache after finishing a workout in the gym. McKeithen said she told her boyfriend she was going to take a nap. When he returned to check on her a few hours later, he was unable to wake her up and rushed her to the hospital.
When McKeithen received the distressing news about her daughter, doctors told her they had placed an Ebola virus line in her brain to drain the fluid — but also told her they weren’t sure how much brain damage she’d suffered.
McKeithen hopped on the first plane to Cabo San Lucas as her daughter was having some heart problems.
A chain of events that pushes many roadblocks took Lisa out of Mexico and to the Mayo Clinic in Florida.
The Air Medical Ambulance was unable to get to Mexico to ferry her daughter via plane because the airport in San Diego was closed because President Biden was in town.
McKeithen has been racing against the clock to get her daughter the immediate, lifesaving medical care she needs.
You can’t make this up. It was crazy. I have friends who have had to call their friends who work for the FAA who managed to get the plane off the ground.
Lisa Burke, pictured right, suffered a massive brain hemorrhage while on a spring break trip to Mexico
Lisa and her boyfriend take a picture together during their spring break trip to Mexico
The Mexican ambulance crew on board transported Lisa to the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville, Florida which Lisa’s mother said was ‘amazing’
The second roadblock was that the airport in Cabo San Lucas was closed for the night and needed to reopen.
“It’s a small airport and we needed to get them to reopen the airport for the flight to take off.”
On Monday evening, when they were finally on their way to Jacksonville, Florida, she said the plane had to stop in Houston so the plane could refuel.
She said she also had to go through customs. In the early hours of Tuesday morning — nearly four days after her daughter suffered a brain hemorrhage — Lisa arrived in Jacksonville at Mayo Clinic under the supervision of a large team of doctors.
“The Learjet Mexican Air Ambulance crew was amazing and the delivery service was door to door,” she said.
McKeithen, who is also the mother of a 26-year-old son. But her other daughter, Edith, “Eddie,” died in 2008 — from a rare genetic disorder — myxomatosis fern disease type I (MPS I).
She said her daughter, a double major at UGA — business and Spanish — was due to graduate in May and has a job at Mutual of America in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Lisa’s mom said her daughter is currently on a ventilator and breathing on her own but she said until she responds to their commands – wiggling of the toe or pressure of the hand – doctors are reluctant to remove the vent
Her friends called an ambulance after she complained of a headache and wouldn’t get up from a nap
Lisa’s mother Laura McKeithen writes on GoFundMe that if you feel pushed to send a message of encouragement, please send Lisa’s attention at the Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville.
She also talked about Mexico being her daughter’s favorite country. During her junior year of high school, they both lived there and her daughter taught English to young children.
She paused, saying, “Mexico is a very special place.” “She must do it.”
Doctors told McKeithen that the tumor was most likely lurking and once it appeared, it grew and then grew rapidly.
She told DailyMail.com the tumor is located in the worst possible location on the brainstem. The area that keeps you alert.
She said a biopsy was taken on Thursday, which is a very risky procedure due to the location of the tumor. She said doctors don’t know enough about the tumor until the pathology report comes back, which can take up to a month.
But because the tumor was growing so fast, radiotherapy was urgent.
“I really think there is a universal energy to something that would cure it, it would just be to keep praying for everyone.”
Every step of the way we find a way to get past the next hurdle. I do not think that it is by chance except by prayer and her will.
A group of Lisa’s friends made a touching video – with video messages and photos – sharing their love and sending words of encouragement to the young woman.
“Lisa I wanted to tell you how much I love you…how proud I am of you. You’re out there fighting so hard. You’re so strong… so resilient… so tough,” Lisa’s former hockey coach Mel said.
We know you will recover and get better. We think of you every day. We believe in you.
Sophie, a childhood friend, added: “We are so proud of all the improvements you’ve already made…keep fighting. We love you and can’t wait to see you soon.”