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Maya Kowalksi takes the stand in All Children’s trial

Mark Parker



Maya Kowalski breaks down on the stand Oct. 9 while discussing her mother's suicide. Screengrab.

The girl at the center of Netflix’s Take Care of Maya and a $220 million lawsuit against Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital testified in a Venice courtroom Oct. 9.

Maya Kowalski, now 17, was 10 the last time she saw her mother. Maya was admitted to the St. Petersburg hospital in October 2016 with debilitating stomach pain.

The family alleges that Maya’s court-ordered caregivers falsely imprisoned and battered the girl during her three-month stay at the hospital. Through more than five hours’ emotional testimony, the teenager described a harrowing experience.

Maya wore a silver necklace she bought for her mother, Beata Kowalski, during her time at All Children’s; Beata later hung herself in the family’s garage.

“I found out later that she wore it every single day,” Maya said through sobs. “And when she was found in the garage, she was still wearing it, and I have it on my neck right now.”

Maya last saw her mother about a week into her hospital stay. She said Beata came to pick up some things and planned to visit the next day.

However, a judge ordered All Children’s to shelter the girl due to Beata’s suspected child abuse. 

Judge Hunter Carroll admonished Greg Anderson, lead counsel for the family, for repeatedly implying that hospital officials were responsible for keeping Maya away from her mother. Carroll threatened to declare a mistrial and sanction Anderson.

Howard Hunter, the hospital’s lead counsel, said in his opening statement  that Beata insisted doctors give the child high doses of ketamine He said a malnourished Maya received 55 doses of the dissociative anesthetic in the nine months before she arrived at the hospital.

Multiple caregivers and social workers suspected that Beata suffered from Munchausen’s syndrome by proxy – a mental illness where caretakers imagine or produce medical symptoms in someone else, typically their child, for attention and control.

“That was not an unreasonable thing for Johns Hopkins to ultimately come around to believe,” Hunter said Sept. 22, the first day of trial.

Maya said her caregivers ignored her symptoms – including spontaneous and debilitating pain, muscle wasting and impaired movement – and felt “humiliated” during her stay at the hospital. She claimed they told her that her mother was “sick” and made her “believe she was also sick.”

“They never said, ‘We think your mom has Munchausen by proxy,” Maya testified. “Instead, they would give me little clues in the things they were saying. For example, when I expressed to them a symptom or … my pain, they’d say, ‘No, you’re making it up. It’s in your head.’

“Then, at one point, the social worker, Cathy Bedy, said my mom was in a mental institution … and it turned out to be a lie.”

Beata Kowalski with her daughter Maya. Beata committed suicide in 2017, and the saga is part of the Netflix documentary, “Take Care of Maya.” Screengrab.

Bedy played a critical role in multiple allegations. The family claims the independent social worker held Maya down, stripped her to a sports bra and shorts and photographed her under false pretenses.

However, the family dropped Bedy from the suit during the second day of jury selection. “I had a few nurses that were nice, but I could tell they were all agenda-driven,” Maya said.

She also claimed that hospital staff rarely let her leave her room. Maya recalled overhearing a phone call where a staff member told her mother, “I never asked to speak to my mom. That I was doing fine; I was OK in my room.”

“And that infuriated me so much because all I did for days on end was demand to speak to my parents,” an emotional Maya added. “That’s all I wanted to do, and I most certainly wasn’t just sitting in my room. I was crying.”

Maya said she could not walk when she arrived at the hospital. She also noted that she relied on nurses to lift her out of bed and place her on a commode a few feet away during a 48-hour surveillance period.

“And when they refused to help me go to the bathroom, I would defecate on myself,” Maya said.

The family alleges that Beata committed suicide because she believed it was the only way for her daughter to return home. Hospital officials believe they may have saved the girl’s life.

Maya admitted under cross-examination that her condition significantly improved after her release from All Children’s. She no longer takes ketamine – or any other medication – for pain management.

She compared the pain from CRPS to having gasoline deep within her body. Maya called a sprained ankle or asthma attack “matches that just set my body on fire, and I have to live with this burning pain.”

“Again, CRPS is very different on different days,” she added. “And it’s very hard to believe, and I understand that, but that’s just how CRPS is.”





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