Inside the Frantic Fight to Save Jett Travolta's Life

This is a rush transcript from "On the Record ," January 5, 2009. This copy may not be in its final form and may be updated.

GRETA VAN SUSTEREN, HOST: Young Jett Travolta dies from a seizure. That's according to a funeral home in the Bahamas. The son of John Travolta and Kelly Preston tragically found dead Friday in a bathroom. The funeral home says Jett's head showed no sign of trauma.

One of the EMT workers, who tried to save the 16-year-old's life, gives his version of the events:


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Describe Jett's injury that you saw.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Well, the injuries was actually just a hematoma, which is like a bump on the forehead. The initial information that we got that he had fallen and hit his head and had a fit. He was unconscious at the time, so we responded right away.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: At what point did John Travolta and his Kelly come onto the scene?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They was on the scene at all times.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: When you got there, they were there? And what were they doing?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: They were acting like any other parents who are concerned, wondering if it's — is he getting there? Are you helping him? Is anything happening? is he breathing? I've You know asked all the questions that a parent would ask.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I believe Kelly asked you something like, is he coming back.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, are you getting him back? Is he coming back?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: What did you reply?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: We are still trying. We are working. We are trying.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And at one point, he reached over and touched Jett's hand?

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Yes, he was holding his hand and saying, Jett, come on Jett, come around.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And I believe, at another point, Kelly was tenderly rubbing him hand and saying —

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Come on, baby. Come on, Jett.


VAN SUSTEREN: Kendeno Knowles of JCMTV joins us on web camera from the Bahamas. What is the status tonight? The autopsy has been completed. Is that right?

KENDENO KNOWLES, JCM-TV: Yes, it has. I can confirm to you that senior medical officer, a pathologist, Karen Sands was flown to Freeport today. That is where the hospital is. Jett Travolta's body was being housed there. The autopsy was performed this sometime between 9:00 and 9:30 this morning. Now, the details of that pathology report have not been released. The only information that we have got, which has already been reported, is that the cause of death is listed as a seizure. That information was released by the funeral home assistant director, Glenn Campbell, who spoke today with the Associated Press.

Like I said, the details of that pathology report have not yet been released. We do not know if they will ever be made public, but that is the only information we have so far.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kendeno, the body was already released, so I guess that means that there is no suspicion that there is anything unusual about the death? The Bahamas have released the body to the funeral home, right?

KNOWLES: Yes, now, the autopsy was performed just to rule out foul play. The prime minister confirmed that today, Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, who told members of the press that the autopsy had to be performed, just as policy, to rule out foul play.

VAN SUSTEREN: Are the Travoltas — I know the body is going to be cremated. Has that already been done? Are the Travoltas en route to Florida? Are they still in the Bahamas?

KNOWLES: Greta, I cannot confirm that information to you. What I can tell you is the funeral arrangements have already been made. The family is expected to have funeral services in Ocala, Florida. I think that was also reported earlier.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kendeno, when you are listening to that EMT — I don't know if you heard that interview — and you listen to the parents' effort, every parent would do the same. What a heartbreak, trying to revive a child.

KNOWLES: Yes, it goes back to the initial police report, which was released on Friday. Police said that the young boy was last seen on New Year's Day and was discovered unconscious by caretaker Jeff Catherine (ph), who found the boy lying in the bathroom. Those reports have been disputed by the Travolta lawyer. The autopsy revealed that there was no head trauma, which now leaves the police report still disputed.

VAN SUSTEREN: In terms of the Travoltas, do they vacation in the Bahamas? Are they well known, not just for their movies and the fact that they are international celebrities, but are they known around town?

KNOWLES: From the information we have gotten, they have been frequenting the Bahamas for the last five years. And the vacationing home that they were staying is where they frequented most of the time that they were here.

VAN SUSTEREN: I understand there was a party of about 60 people that were there to celebrate the holidays.

KNOWLES: Well, I cannot confirm that, but I do know that they were, in fact, here for the holidays, and obviously a sad time to lose their son, the day after New Year's day.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is the news gripping the Bahamas? It certainly is gripping the United States.

KNOWLES: It certainly is. It's left a shock across the island. The Travolta family was well known on the island, and made lasting friendships with some of the residents over in Grand Bahama.

VAN SUSTEREN: Kendeno, thank you very much for joining us.

KNOWLES: No problem.

VAN SUSTEREN: Well, it was supposed to be a huge family and friends New Years celebrations in the Bahamas, turns into a nightmare for two of the world's best known movie stars. Kelly Preston and Jett Travolta s 16 year had that fatal seizure.

Now, here is what we know: it all began Tuesday, December 30th. That is when the Travolta family arrives by private jet in the Bahamas. About 60 family and friends also began arriving. Two days later, January 1st, the Travolta family and 16-year-old Jett's two nanny's take a boating trip. About 6:00 p.m. the Travoltas returned to their home at the Old Bahama Bay Hotel.

Jett reportedly goes to sleep. 10:00 a.m., January 2nd, Jett is found dead in the bathroom by one of his nannies. Lawyers for the Travoltas say that Jett he monitored constantly, and that he likely was found shortly after collapsing in the bathroom. That brings us to today. An autopsy was performed and it was confirmed Jett died from a seizure.

Now, seizures had been a tough problem that Jett battled over his young life, but that was not his only physical problem. He had Kawasaki Syndrome. What is Kawasaki Syndrome? Doctors don't know what causes this disease, but it does not appear to be hereditary or contagious. Eighty percent of the people diagnosed with this disease are under the age of five. Some of the symptoms fever, rash, swollen hands and feet, irritation of the eyes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, an inflammation of the mouth, lips and throat.

The syndrome is normally treated with aspirin. But a serious case can be treated with steroids. The condition is rare in the United States, but more common in Japan, where a doctor identified that disease first in 1967. Now, in most cases, the child who has the syndrome is sick for a week or so and gets over it. However, it is possible that the disease can cause damage to the coronary arteries, leading to aneurysms later in life.

Dr. Michael Baden joins us live. Dr. Baden, the autopsy says seizure, is that an easy determination made during an autopsy?

DR. MICHAEL BADEN, FORENSIC PATHOLOGIST: Not an easy determination. It depends on ruling out all other causes of death, such as any heart disease, which could of been related to Kawasaki syndrome. That was ruled out. He must have had a normal heart. He did not have any injuries, any trauma to his head or brain. That's ruled out. The doctors who did the autopsy must have gotten a lot of history from the family as to his seizure history. And having excluded any other traumatic or natural reason for the death, attributed the death to this seizure disorder, which can kill people.

Greta, there are about 1.5 million people in the United States who have seizure disorders. And very few of them die from the epilepsy itself, but, occasionally, when it gets bad, especially Grand Mal Epileptic seizures, can interfere with breathing, and the person can die. And that is what the conclusion of the doctors who did the autopsy this morning was.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Baden, I take it there is no perfect medication, because I hear of people dying of seizures.

BADEN: Yes, there are various medications that can be very helpful, and I am sure that Jett was under the care of a neurologist, not a psychiatrist, but a neurologist. It's a neurological problem. He would have been managed on different medication, different seizure medications, because sometimes the child will outgrow the medication. And when a person has a serious seizure disorder, it is very difficult to manage.

VAN SUSTEREN: When you say outgrow, do you get older, and a particular medicine doesn't work? Or do you get used to it, in the sense that it's lost its effectiveness?

BADEN: Yes, as a medication is used over a period of time, as the child grows older, and the medication is also used for a long time, it may diminish its effectiveness. We do not know all of the reasons for it.

VAN SUSTEREN: Go ahead. I am sorry, sir.

BADEN: We don't know the reasons that the medications have to be changed. And there are a number of different medications that are used. And one of the things that they will be doing, they will be doing toxicology over there, to see what the levels of the medications were.

VAN SUSTEREN: What is a seizure, and is there something that provokes it?

BADEN: Yes, a seizure is the result of some abnormal electrical discharge in the brain. Now, oftentimes, the autopsy, and the examination of the brain, about half of the time, can find that focal seizure. It could be an old area of trauma to the brain. It could be abnormal vasculature, arteries and veins that a person was born that were not normal, or some kind of tumor formation, benign tumor, that causes the electrical stimulus in the brain that then causes the muscles and parts of the body to react uncontrollably.

In my experience, about half of the time when people die of epileptic seizures, one can find a focus in the brain that caused it, but half of the time, one can't.

VAN SUSTEREN: Is there something that provokes one? I know someone might have one every week and not have one for months.

BADEN: Yes, if a person gets sick, has a cold, or blood sugar goes too high or too low, that can trigger off the seizure activity. Incidentally, the issue of cremation, because Jett has apparently been cremated, from what I have heard — when I started out in the medical examiner's office in New York in 1960's, there were five percent of people in United States were cremated. Now, it is about 35 percent of people who die in the United States are cremated. It is becoming a very popular method for having a funeral for a loved one.

VAN SUSTEREN: Dr. Baden, thank you, sir.

BADEN: Thanks, Greta.

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