From iconic appearances in movies like Saturday Night Fever and Grease to gritty roles in memorable hits such as Pulp Fiction and Face/Off, John Travolta has been entertaining audiences for decades. But while the 66-year old actor has had one of the most successful careers in Hollywood, he’s also had to face some unimaginable tragedies, including the death of one of his children. Here, we take a look at the short life of Jett Travolta, John Travolta’s son.
Who Was Jett Travolta?
Jett Travolta was born on April 13th, 1992. He was the son of John Travolta and actress Kelly Preston, who were married a year prior, in 1991. While Travolta initially denied reports that Jett suffered from autism, the actor eventually disclosed that his son was autistic and suffered from frequent seizures. Jett had two siblings— Ella Bleu Travolta, who was born in 2000, and Benjamin Travolta, born a year after Jett’s untimely death.
Jett Travolta Tragically Passed Away At The Age Of 16
Jett passed away in 2009, while on vacation with his family in the Bahamas. According to reports, he was found unresponsive in the bathroom of the Travoltas’ private family suite, after suffering a seizure and hitting his head. The 16-year-old had frequent seizures and was on medication to minimize their severity, though the medication had reportedly stopped being effective.
Travolta’s lawyer said that the panicked dad attempted to resuscitate Jett by administering CPR before paramedics arrived and took over. Jett was pronounced dead once he arrived at the hospital.
Shortly after his death was made public, Kelly Preston and John Travolta released the following statement on the actor’s official website:
“We would like to extend our deepest and most heartfelt thanks to everyone who has sent their love and condolences. Jett was the most wonderful son that two parents could ever ask for and lit up the lives of everyone he encountered. We are heartbroken that our time with him was so brief. We will cherish the time we had with him for the rest of our lives. We have received many messages of condolence from around the world and we want to thank everyone for their prayers and support. It has meant so much to us. It is a beautiful reminder of the inherent goodness in the human spirit that gives us a hope for a brighter future.”
John Travolta And Kelly Preston Revealed That Jett Had Kawasaki Syndrome
In 2012, while making an appearance on the daytime talk show The Doctors, Kelly Preston disclosed that Jett had suffered from a rare autoimmune disorder called Kawasaki syndrome when he was very young. The condition, which is most common in infants and young children, creates inflammation in the blood vessels, particularly the coronary arteries.
According to the American Heart Association, Kawasaki syndrome causes a high fever for five days or longer and is accompanied by symptoms including swollen hands and feet, bloodshot eyes, peeling of the skin on the fingers and toes, swollen lymph glands in the neck, and swelling of the mouth, lips, throat, and tongue. The illness can damage the coronary arteries and the heart muscle in as many as one in four children.
While not the direct cause of Jett’s death, Preston believed that Kawasaki syndrome contributed to her son’s autism, along with medications and other chemicals. “I strongly believe as a mother, as does my husband, that there are certain contributing factors that lead to autism. And some of it is very much the chemicals in our environment and in our food,” she said. “We would try all different things, and I felt when we were able to keep certain things at a bare minimum and do as healthy as possible, he did so much better. He was coming out of the autism.”
John Travolta Even Got Wrapped Up In An Extortion Case Following Jett’s Death
A few months after Jett’s untimely passing, a Bahamian medic and his lawyer were accused of trying to extort $25 million from Travolta’s family. The suit claimed that the pair had evidence that Travolta was at fault for his son’s death and were using it to blackmail the Hollywood star. Travolta testified at the first trial, which ended in a mistrial. He could not take the pain of appearing in court again, however, so the case was dismissed.
“The long-pending status of this matter continued to take a heavy emotional toll on my family, causing us to conclude that it was finally time to put this matter behind us,” the Pulp Fiction actor said in a written statement. “Therefore, after much reflection I concluded that it was in my family’s best interest for me not to voluntarily return to the Bahamas to testify a second time at trial.”
John Travolta Still Keeps Jett’s Memory Alive Today
Obviously, Travolta and Preston were left heartbroken by their son’s death. “It’s the worst thing that’s ever happened in my life,” the actor said. “The truth is, I didn’t know if I was going to make it.”
Travolta credited his faith in the controversial religion of Scientology for getting him through the grief. “The church never left our sides for two years,” he said. “I don’t know if I would have made it through without their support.”
Travolta continues to honor his late son more than a decade after untimely passing through the Jett Travolta Foundation, whose objectives are to “use its resources to assist and provide relief to children with vision, hearing, mobility, communication, behavior learning impairments or other special medical, environmental, health or educational needs.”
Tragically, Travolta’s wife Kelly Preston passed away in July 2020, after a two-year fight with breast cancer. In an Instagram post announcing her death, the actor hinted at a career hiatus. “I will be taking some time to be there for my children who have lost their mother, so forgive me in advance if you don’t hear from us for a while,” he said. “Please know that I will feel your outpouring of love in the weeks and months ahead as we heal.”