As a Henry Roosevelt documentary living up to its title in every way imaginable, Netflix’s ‘Take Care of Maya’ can only be described as equal parts baffling, captivating, haunting, and tragic. That’s because it carefully chronicles the tale of Maya Kowalski, whose entire world turned upside down before she even stepped into adolescence due to a rare disease plus a messed up system. So now, if you simply wish to learn more about her — with a specific focus on her background, her experiences, her loss, as well as her current standing — we’ve got the necessary details for you.
Who is Maya Kowalski?
Although born in 2006 as the elder of two to devoted nurse Beata and kind firefighter Jack Kowalski, Maya’s childhood was unfortunately not all blissful despite her receiving unwavering love. The truth is both she along with her two years younger brother Kyle were genuinely raised as cared for as possible, yet everything shattered apart when the former was merely nine in mid-2015. After all, she began experiencing not just asthma attacks but also severe headaches, followed by her feet curling inwards, lesions forming on her every limb, and her skin feeling like it was on fire.
Maya was thus rushed to a litany of doctors, only for none of them to be of any actual help — while some were truly confounded by her symptoms, at least a couple suggested it was all in her head. Thankfully, though, the youngster’s parents knew in their hearts she wasn’t faking her incessant whimpering for even a second and hence didn’t falter in their efforts to get her some treatment. That’s when nurse Beata’s extensive research yielded a possible diagnosis of the rare Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS), driving her to immediately book an appointment with a specialist.
It was in October 2015 when the Kowalskis made their way to Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick, just for him to confirm Maya’s ailment to be advanced textbook CRPS before offering a concrete treatment plan. But alas, since his initial physical therapy combined with low ketamine infusions didn’t work, he soon suggested the much more drastic (experimental) ketamine coma to reset her entire system. This risky procedure (in Mexico) actually did wonders for the 9-year-old despite leaving her with a few side effects like blurry vision, yet she was okay with it because it improved her overall health.
That’s why Maya continued with ketamine infusions in the ensuing months to avoid flare-ups — there’s no cure to CRPS — but October 7, 2016, came with her suffering from crippling stomach pain. The Venice, Florida native was subsequently rushed into the emergency room at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, where her parents did their best to explain her condition. However, because Beata almost immediately repeatedly pleaded with doctors to administer a high dose of ketamine to the then-10-year-old, it raised a lot of concerns among the professionals.
In fact, a pediatric staff member grew so worried over Maya’s well-being that they contacted child protective services, whose investigative team outrightly accused Beata of abuse within days. Per their reports, she likely had Munchausen Syndrome by Proxy (MSP), a mental disorder in which a caretaker either makes up symptoms or causes real ones to make it seem like their child is ill. They essentially asserted the registered nurse was not mentally fit as she’d lied about the whole thing regarding her daughter, which a psychological evaluation proved wasn’t the case within a week.
Nevertheless, by this point, a court had already ordered Maya to remain admitted in the hospital under state custody so as to ensure she could undergo a variety of other tests as well as treatments. “One day, I was in the ICU, and my mom kissed me on the forehead and was like, ‘I love you. I’ll see you tomorrow.’ I never saw her again,” she once recalled. “I was medically kidnapped. I tried being hopeful, but there was a point where I thought, ‘I’m never getting out of this place.'” The fact she couldn’t have any form of contact with either parent for a few days traumatized her.
Then, Maya also grew frustrated over the fact her father’s ensuing visits and her mother’s phone conversations were always brief because a child protective agent was always by her side to interrupt. Beata too was devastated, especially as she knew her little girl’s health was deteriorating, leading her to break apart once a judge went as far as to deny them a simple hug following three months apart. Therefore, to make the matter come to a close, the 43-year-old nurse decided to take her own life in January 2017 — this is when a second specialist re-confirmed Maya had CRPS, and she was released from the hospital into her father’s custody for good.
Where is Maya Kowalski Now?
Owing to the circumstances surrounding Maya’s case, the Kowalskis were court-ordered to follow a different, slower treatment plan for her intense CRPS that didn’t involve ketamine at all. It hence took over a year of physical therapy as well as relatively lower-dosage medicine for the young girl to move from her wheelchair to just her crutches, and she walked freely a year after this. Nevertheless, according to the documentary, she can relapse at any time due to the nature of her illness, which terrifies her more than anything because she now understandably hates going to hospitals or seeing doctors — she insists they held her captive for three months.
Coming to Maya’s current standing, from what we can tell, the 17-year-old high school student is doing her best to attain closure from the past these days by ensuring her and her mother’s story is heard. This is actually part of why the Kowalskis have sued Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, Child Abuse Pediatrician Dr. Sally Smith, Social Worker Catherine “Cathi” Bedy, and a third-party organization for punitive damages on the grounds of causing them extreme distress. The latter two have since settled the matter with the family, whereas the case against the medical center is set to go on trial in September 2023.
Apart from this, Maya is keeping the memories of her mother alive in her heart, all the while trying to be a normal teenager. “When pouring all my energy into schoolwork got to be too exhausting,” she candidly said in the original production, “I started to book every second of my free time with friends, outside of the house and away from reminders.” We should thus even mention that it appears as if the Venice, Florida, native is presently in a happy, healthy, stable relationship with a fellow teen by the name of Jon-Luc.