Story of 7-year-old girl selling lemonade to pay for brain surgery sparks outrage, empathy

TORONTO — The story of a 7-year-old girl from Alabama selling lemonade to help to pay for her own brain surgery has caused an uproar on the internet, with many calling it an indictment of the U.S. healthcare system.

Liza Scott is the 7-year-old at the centre of the tragedy. Her family discovered she had multiple cerebral malformations after she suffered a seizure at the end of January.

“It’s been pretty devastating,” her mother, Elizabeth Scott, told CTV News Channel on Sunday.

“She’s super special. She’s always been a fun and energetic, artistic, creative little girl, so this has been a big change.”

Liza will be undergoing brain surgery in Boston next week — the first of many operations — but receiving this life-saving care comes with a steep price tag, potentially costing hundreds of thousands of dollars.

“Next Monday is kind of a ‘wait and see.’” Scott said of the upcoming surgery. “We don’t really know what to expect. Of course they won’t know until they get in there.”

Liza made headlines earlier this week when news outlets reported that she was setting up a lemonade stand inside her family’s business, selling lemonade for 25 cents, hoping to earn a little extra to go towards the cost of her surgeries.

Many on Twitter responded to the story with shock.

“The American pay-to-live healthcare system is inhumane,” said Brianna Westbrook, Bernie Sandars’ campaign co-chair for Arizona. “No child should have to sell lemonade to pay for brain surgery. We need a (medicare for all) healthcare system. Everyone in. Nobody left out. No co-pays, no deductibles, free at the point of service.”

Liza’s mother said the lemonade stand was built around a year ago, “just for fun.”

“My Dad and I built it for her,” Scott said, adding that the stand had been stored away for months due to the pandemic.

“When all this sort of came about, she wanted to sell lemonade again to raise money to help cover the cost of our being out of town for several weeks at a time, and surgeries and things like that.”

Scott thought that they would simply gain a little extra from regular customers who knew the family and wanted to help out.

“We’ve been a family bakery here in Birmingham for 80 years,” she said.

What she didn’t anticipate was the story reaching so many people.

“It’s been amazing to see how much she’s captured the hearts of people all over the world,” she said. “It’s not anything we ever expected.”

With the heartbreaking story sparking both outrage and empathy, one positive is that an online fundraiser set up by the family has seen a swell of support. As of Sunday evening, the family had raised more than US$236,000 for Liza’s care.


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