(Contains Spoilers for this who want the context but can’t watch due to the emotive nature of the documentary)

FII is a pandemic of blame destroying families. We’ve heard these words from many different sources most recently from David Crisp when presenting a course developed for the Sunshine Academy. We have listened to so many of your stories and seen the utterly devastating effects that the accusations of Fabricated or Induced illness have caused. It’s the reason Sunshine was founded.

To be the support that our founders wished they’d had from the start.

Now we are seeing that FII is a global pandemic. A new documentary dropped on Netflix this week and it is heart wrenching. ‘Take Care of Maya’ focuses on the Kowalski family and tells their story through real audio and video recordings combined with interviews with the remaining family members as they try to seek justice for the trauma they endured. They do this in the hopes that they are making a difference to others falsely accused of medical child abuse. Highly emotive and raw this documentary really hammers home the life changing and lasting trauma associated with all cases of FII. We certainly see this reflected any time we discuss this on our social media pages.

It’s a difficult watch. But the parallels between the American system and ours are clear and frightening.

Maya presented with a rare illness later diagnosed as Complex Regional Pain Syndrome or CPRS. The symptoms were vague, ebbed and flowed in their intensity and was frequently referred to as perplexing. All red flags for FII. Beata the mother was a nurse, so she had been professionally documenting all Mayas symptoms and built a case for finding a specialist for Maya based on her symptoms. The specialist doctor that confirmed Maya’s diagnosis suggested a treatment plan that was experimental and involved high doses of ketamine. Maya needed the more extreme end of this treatment and travelled to Mexico to be put into a ketamine coma. This was successful and allowed her to live for a year without a relapse. Beata was very forceful in finding a diagnosis and help for her child and we know that this can sometimes present as an obsession. We’ve heard this before too and that a parent who asks too many questions or is asking for specific help will be targeted with accusations.

During a weather event travel to her usual doctor was not possible and Maya relapsed ending up in the emergency department of a local hospital. This is where those all too familiar false accusations started for the family. This hospital did not agree with the ketamine and believed it to be a form of abuse to highly dose a child. These accusations were rebutted via the CPRS specialist, but the local hospital had already made their decision and accused Beata of Munchhausen by proxy. She was quickly cleared of this via a psychiatric evaluation. Unfortunately, the clear psychiatric report did not stop the hospital continuing to keep Maya in their care still accusing the family of medical child abuse. Dragging them through the court system and refusing to allow the mother any contact with her child. Actively encouraging the father to agree to discontinue contact with Beata in order to see his child despite them being happily married and cohabiting. Again, the divide and conquer tactics of an organisation desperately trying to prove that their accusations are correct despite them clearly not being so.

All of this ended in a power struggle between the doctors and the court played into the medical bias of one side over the other. The facts and data were discarded for opinion and false testimonies. With the hospital holding more weight simply because the specialist was only known for one field of medical diagnosis. Ultimately as a direct result of the court denying access to Maya Beata took her own life. She so desperately wanted to protect her child and get her home safely and saw herself as the only one preventing that. This was sadly an opinion she had seen written and discussed at length via various professionals. They were not looking at how their actions had caused irreparable levels of trauma to the family as a whole. We have heard this echoed in your stories. Similar words such as ‘heartless’ ‘cold’ and ‘monster’ really stuck with me from this.

In conclusion this documentary is eye opening. It shows that the FII pandemic is not only a problem here but also worldwide. But we are giving a voice to those who need it and a platform to shout loudly from. We want to help and support as many people on this journey as possible. We want change. We are releasing our second FII piece and would love for you to all have a watch and share it. Give us your thoughts and reach out to us. The Kowalski family are so brave for sharing their story and the families that have shared theirs with us in order to put this piece together all are too. Because these voices are important and need to be heard. You are all important and deserve to be heard.

“I’m Jayne, I’m here to help you with any of your social care queries. I can advocate for you, advise you and provide independent social work assessments. Would you like a chat? Book a call on the link below.”

– Jayne Gissing, Independent Social Worker & Advocate at Sunshine Support