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Take Care of Maya, one of the biggest Netflix movies in the world, is profoundly heartbreaking

Published Jul 6th, 2023 3:43PM EDT
Take Care of Maya on Netflix
Image: Netflix

One of the biggest Netflix releases in the world right now is a documentary film that’s leaving audiences reeling from sadness, as well as profoundly shaken that the story presented in director Henry Roosevelt’s Take Care of Maya is real and actually happened.

At the center of the story is Maya Kowalski, a young girl who was rushed to a Florida hospital back in 2016 when she was 10 years old and in excruciating pain. Her parents were understandably frantic. But that trip to the hospital would change their lives, as well as that of Maya (who’s now a teenager).

Basically, Maya seemed to be in chronic pain for which there wasn’t a readily identifiable explanation. The doctors couldn’t figure it out. Eventually, a doctor for a child welfare agency evaluated Maya and decided that her symptoms merited only one conclusion.

It’s that Maya was being abused, and her mother — who, among other things, gave her Ketamine infusions to help with the pain — must be the reason that she’s sick.

From Netflix’s official logline for Take Care of Maya:

“When 10-year-old Maya Kowalski was admitted to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in 2016, nothing could have prepared her or her family for what they were about to go through. As the medical team tried to understand her rare illness, they began to question the basic truths that bound the Kowalskis together. Suddenly, Maya was in state custody – despite two parents who were desperate to bring their daughter home. The story of the Kowalski family – as told in their own words – will change the way you look at children’s healthcare forever.”

This film presents a narrative driven by an inefficient and fractured healthcare industry more focused on process than outcomes that ended up ripping a family apart. The most infuriating part of the film? A genuine medical diagnosis is eventually pinpointed to explain Maya’s symptoms (which were not, in fact, the result of abuse from her parents).

Nevertheless, be aware going into this film that the sadness and helplessness that Maya’s parents felt becomes so overwhelming that it eventually drives her mother to suicide. “I no longer can take the pain being away from Maya and being treated like a criminal,” a final note from Maya’s mother reads. “I cannot watch my daughter suffer in pain and keep getting worse.” After that fateful choice, Maya is released from the hospital just days later and allowed to go home to live with her father and brother.

Raged one Twitter user about this new Netflix release: “Just finished watching the documentary Take Care of Maya. I hope the Kowalski family bankrupts that hospital. I hope that judge who denied Maya’s mother from giving her daughter a hug is haunted by that decision everyday.”

The family is preparing to go to trial this September against the Florida hospital, Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital. Which, we should note, was recently ranked the #1 children’s hospital in Florida by US News and World Report, leading the hospital to tweet in response: “We’re ranked as the #1 children’s hospital in Florida by @usnews. This ranking is a testament to the hard work, compassion, and dedication of our staff. Help us celebrate our teams for their commitment to kids’ health!'”

Take Care of Maya on Netflix
Beata Kowalski, Maya Kowalski, and Jack Kowalski. Image source: Netflix
Take Care of Maya on Netflix
A production still from the Netflix documentary “Take Care of Maya.” Image source: Netflix

Andy Meek Trending News Editor

Andy Meek is a reporter based in Memphis who has covered media, entertainment, and culture for over 20 years. His work has appeared in outlets including The Guardian, Forbes, and The Financial Times, and he’s written for BGR since 2015. Andy's coverage includes technology and entertainment, and he has a particular interest in all things streaming.

Over the years, he’s interviewed legendary figures in entertainment and tech that range from Stan Lee to John McAfee, Peter Thiel, and Reed Hastings.

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