Review of Take Care of Maya Directed by Henry Roosevelt Rating *****
With great power comes great responsibility. This documentary shows what can happen when a few people are given the power to destroy families and not think twice about the consequences. It starts with a young girl experiencing unexplainable symptoms. The parents, Beata and Jack Kowalski search for answers by having their daughter, Maya, undergo a series of tests in an effort to pinpoint the cause of her symptoms. Eventually, they find a doctor who diagnoses Maya’s condition as a rare disease called Complex Regional Pain Syndrome (CRPS). The condition causes a person to experience severe pain that persists for long periods of time. The recommended treatment was for Maya to take high doses of the drug Ketamine.
After receiving treatment, Maya’s condition improved. One night, which also happened to occur during a hurricane that struck Florida, Maya complained of severe stomach pain. Maya’s parents took her to the emergency room at John Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersberg, Florida. Maya’s mom, who was a nurse, tried to explain to the doctors Maya’s diagnosis. The doctors treating Maya, however, knew nothing about the condition and reported the parents for possible child abuse. That set off a chain reaction that ended with tragic consequences.
The documentary makes heavy use of interviews with the family and deposition videos of all the key players. There is one other element thrown into the mix that elevates this film – audio of Maya’s mother as she interacts with the people who put Maya into State custody and threaten her with criminal charges.
Things go from bad to worse as Maya is kept separated from her parents. Beata, who is trying to be an advocate for her daughter, is accused of Munchausen’s by proxy. Once the Kawolski’s enter the criminal justice system and are forced to deal with Child Protective Services, things spiral out of control.
While working on the film, the filmmakers are contacted by other families that have experienced the same thing. The one thing they have in common is Dr. Sally Smith, who conducts a cursory interview that often ends with the parents having to fight to regain custody of their children. Parents are drained of their savings as they are forced to hire attorneys to fight an indifferent system that treats them only as case numbers rather than families torn apart.
While doctors like Dr. Sally Smith get the ball rolling by accusing the parents of child abuse, there is a long list of judges and social workers who all fall in line in what turns out to be a nationwide problem. What makes the Kawolski’s case different, is Beata’s determination to document her interactions, allowing the viewer, and soon a panel of jurors, to hear exactly what took place.
Don’t miss this one on Netflix.