The new Netflix documentary Take Care of Maya is a sobering true story which plays out across a children’s hospital, as doctors treat a new young patient named Maya Kowalski, and the court case that follows, when the child protection team’s medic files a report which alleges that the child’s mother is harming her.
After being diagnosed with complex regional pain syndrome (CPRS) in childhood, which manifests as episodes of painful, burning sensations in the limbs, Maya Kowalski began to take doses of ketamine to help her manage the pain. When Maya was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2016, seemingly suffering from a flare-up, her mother Beata was described as being “pushy” in her requests for the doctors to prescribe more ketamine.
This led to Dr. Sally Smith, medical director for the hospital’s child protection team, to carry out an investigation. She concluded that Beata was experiencing Munchausen’s by proxy and actually behind Maya’s symptoms. As a result, the courts removed Maya from her family’s custody—just one instance of many where Smith’s testimony led to children being taken into state care despite their parents’ protestations of innocence.
In 2017, the documentary recounts, shortly after being separated from Maya, Beata died by suicide.
Where is Maya Kowalski now?
Maya, now 17 years old, resides with her father and brother in Venice, Florida. She is still living with CRPS, but a court order prohibits her or her family from seeking further ketamine treatment, which means her recovery was a long one—although she has since regained the use of her legs.
Having settled in their case against Dr. Sally Smith, the Kowalskis are now taking legal action against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital.
“For us as a family to move on, we need to fulfill my mom’s wish and fight,” Maya told People. “I want justice for my mom.”
Philip Ellis is a freelance writer and journalist from the United Kingdom covering pop culture, relationships and LGBTQ+ issues. His work has appeared in GQ, Teen Vogue, Man Repeller and MTV.