Liza Scott, a 7-year-old from Homewood, Alabama, has struck a small fortune of about $290,000 with a classic childhood pastime: selling lemonade and cookies.

However, this money is not for the piggy bank or even a rainy day. It is to pay for her lifesaving brain surgeries.

A LIFE-CHANGING DISCOVERY

On Jan. 30, 2021, Liza’s life changed forever when she suffered a Grand Mal seizure. After 45 minutes of seizing, an ambulance took her to Children’s of Alabama in Birmingham. She was sent home, only to return later that same day.

The hospital dismissed the seizure as a “conversion disorder,” which is when a patient is experiencing physical symptoms that cannot be medically explained. When the hospital tried to send Liza home a second time her mother, Elizabeth Scott, knew something far more severe was going on.

“I knew in my gut something was wrong," she said. “If she had been sent home again and continued to have seizures, she very well could not be here today.”

As doctors began to run tests, they found that Liza was prone to having seizures while she was sleeping. This prompted an MRI scan that revealed she had three cerebral malformations in her brain.

The doctors prescribed Liza medicine to help with the malformations but, like putting a Band-Aid over a bullet wound, this did not solve the problem at its source.

“The malformations she has are essentially aneurysms," Scott said. “It’s basically a collection of blood vessels and arteries that end up intertwined. The fistula at the back of her brain is the highest risk because it involves a carotid artery feeding into a vein, which it’s not designed to do. It can rupture, hemorrhage, stroke...there is no easy fix.”

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Those swollen veins turn into bulges –what Liza has now – which can rupture and possibly lead to bleeding in the brain. To remove these swollen veins and arteries, Liza will need to have three separate surgeries.

According to Liza’s MightyCause page, it is extremely rare for someone to experience just one of these malformations, but Liza has three.

“…the first (is) a Schizencephaly (or cleft) – the second a Parietal Arteriovenous Malformation – or AVM (You and I know it as an aneurysm) – and lastly, a Dural Arteriovenous Fistula (DAVM)  – or very rare vascular condition where abnormal connections (fistulas) are made between branches of arteries and veins,” Liza's MightyCause page states.

LEMONS INTO LEMONADE

Liza’s road to recovery will be anything but easy, but it is especially costly. So, life gave Liza lemons, and she literally turned them into lemonade.

In a valiant effort to raise money for her surgeries, Liza started a lemonade stand in the lobby of her family's business, Savage’s Bakery.

Liza’s now-famous lemonade stand actually came about last summer. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic, most of the summer camps that Liza had hoped to participate in were canceled. Thus, Liza spent most of her summer vacation at the bakery with her mother.

To help combat her boredom, Liza proposed the idea of selling lemonade at the bakery. After a quick trip to the craft store, Liza and her mother had crates, paints and a nail gun to build what is now known as Liza’s Lemonade.

As the fall rolled around and the pandemic drug on, Liza temporarily closed her lemonade business. However, after she came home from the hospital, yet another genius idea popped into her head.

“She just asked one day,” Scott said. “‘Well, can I put my lemonade stand back out and raise money to go to Boston?’”

Boston is where the Scott family is hoping to travel to so Liza can have her surgeries there.

“We were originally only going to do it for one or two days and let our customers be a part of Liza’s journey," Scott said. “I thought it was a great way to let people learn about what we’re going through.”

Liza's grandfather has owned the bakery for 43 years. He bought the Birmingham-based business from the original owners, Mr. and Mrs. Savage, in 1978. Savage’s Bakery has been curating cookies, cakes, deli products and other desserts to their clientele since 1939.

“I never anticipated the fundraising would go anywhere out of our little hometown," Scott said.

The bakery’s loyal customer base helped Liza’s fundraiser grow exponentially, pretty much solely through word of mouth.

Since the start of Liza’s Lemonade, their booming business has allowed them to expand the menu from strictly lemonade to specialty cookies.

“Just this past week we added our signature smiley face cookie that everyone knows us for," Scott said. “Over the years, the cookies have evolved into being all kinds of shapes, colors and decorations. So, we thought we should do one in the shape of a lemon and ice it lemon-yellow. My dad made some petit fours – he writes her name on them with a little heart.”

A MAJOR IMPACT

While Liza is experiencing some fatigue from her malformations, she tries to go out to her lemonade stand as much as she can. Luckily for Liza, her employees are more than happy to fill in and take shifts for her.

“She has friends, a cousin and her little brother, who’s 3, that like to help late in the afternoons," Scott said. “Our staff here also helps. We still leave the jar out even if she is not here so folks can help themselves and make a donation if they want to.”

Even though Liza has been able to raise almost $300,000 for her surgery, the cost of a procedure like the ones she will need are still astronomically high.

“We are looking at a minimum of two surgeries, possibly a lot more," Scott said. “This is a condition that the doctors in Boston have already given us a heads-up on. These are very rare diseases in children. They have prepared me that we’ll be going up there to visit and be followed by them until she’s at least 30.”

The Scott family has a long road to recovery ahead of them and, similar to cancer cells, there is still a possibility for these malformations to grow back.

“Even if she has the surgery and she doesn’t have a problem for years, there is no guarantee that they don’t come back," Scott said. "We are just starting this marathon.”

With a journey as long and tiring as this one, Liza and her family are eternally grateful to all of their loyal customers who have helped them through this so far.

To keep tabs on Liza and her family, follow her Facebook page. To make a donation, check out her MightyCause page or visit Savage’s Bakery in Homewood, Alabama.

Young Entrepreneurs in West Alabama