Watching your child get sick is one of the scariest things as a parent. That was the reality for Beata and Jack Kowalski in 2016 after their daughter Maya grew mysteriously ill. At the age of nine, their little girl began suffering from excruciating headaches, asthma attacks, painful lesions on her arms and legs, and cramping in her feet.
Her symptoms baffled medical professionals at their hometown hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Fla. Her family later learned of complex regional pain syndrome (CRPS), a rare neurological condition that can cause constant or intermittent pain in the extremities, a burning sensation, and extreme sensitivity to touch, according to Cleveland Clinic.
Dr. Anthony Kirkpatrick, an anesthesiologist and pharmacologist in Tampa who specializes in CRPS, officially diagnosed her. He gave Maya the anesthetic drug ketamine through infusions but suggested she undergo a more aggressive ketamine treatment, dubbed a "ketamine coma" where the nervous system would essentially be "reset" over five days.
At the time, the treatment had not been approved by the Food And Drug Administration (FDA) so Maya and her family traveled to Mexico to have the procedure carried out.
Ultimately, she felt much better after receiving the treatment. However, within a year, her symptoms came back. She returned to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital where her mother pleaded with the staff to give her ketamine. However, this request raised serious concerns. The staff alerted child protective services.
Beata was later accused of child abuse due to Munchausen syndrome by proxy (MSP), a mental disorder in which a caretaker of a child either makes up fake symptoms or causes real symptoms to make it appear that the child is injured or ill, according to Healthline.
A child abuse pediatrician named Dr. Sally Smith put Maya in the state's care, taking her away from her parents during this already difficult time.
After 87 days of being separated from her daughter and ultimately being portrayed as a criminal for trying to help her daughter, Beata took her own life in January 2017.
Where is Maya Kowalski now?
Maya and her family have filed a lawsuit against John Hopkins All Children's Hospital relating to Beata's death. The trial is slated to start in September 2023.
Ultimately, a court order has prevented Maya from continuing ketamine, which has made her recovery difficult. However, she is still trying to make do with the options she currently has. The teen is now able to use her arms and legs but still struggles with pain frequently.
Maya tells her story in the documentary Take Care Maya, which is now streaming on Netflix.