Douglas Thmopson - Author and International Journalist

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For John, protecting Jett was everything. He had to be in control. That's why he flew his own plane.

JOHN TRAVOLTA frantically tried to revive his teenage son after he collapsed in the Bahamas, police revealed last night.

The Mail On Sunday 4th January 2009

Douglas Thompson

The Grease star dashed to Jett Travolta's suite in the family's holiday villa after hearing the screams of a male nanny who found the 16-year-old's body on the floor of his bathroom.

Travolta's close friend Michael McDermott said there was a 'flicker of life' from Jett as his father battled to save him.

He said: 'John took over CPR (coronary resuscitation) from the nanny and did everything he could. Jett was not dead, there was a flicker of life and he exhaustively did all he could. There was some respiratory movement.'

But Jett was pronounced dead in hospital. A detective with the Bahamas Police said: 'Mr Travolta did everything he could but it appears it was too late. The nanny tried, Mr Travolta tried. They did their best. Nobody wanted to give up.'

Jett is thought to have suffered a seizure in the bathroom and fallen, banging his head twice, on a wash basin and the bath.

He was last seen alive, according to police, on Thursday night, when he went to use the bathroom at the beach-front mansion, where the family were spending a New Year holiday.

Mr McDermott said that during the night the nanny, Jeff Kathrein, constantly checked on the teenager, who had suffered from bad health. There also was a baby monitor by his bed and a chimer that sounded when the bathroom door opened.

The fatal injury occurred when Jett suffered an apparent seizure 'very shortly' before he was discovered, Mr McDermott said.

The death has devastated the actor and his family. 'The pain he is going through is unimaginable. He's just broken up,' said Mr McDermott. Jett was taken to hospital in the island's capital Freeport with his 54-year-old father and actress mother, Kelly Preston, 46, accompanying him in an ambulance. They were seen holding hands after learning he was dead.

Michael Ossi, the family's lawyer, said Jett had a history of seizures. 'But they were controlled,' he said. 'This one couldn't be.'

Travolta and his wife have said Jett suffered from Kawasaki disease, a rare inflammatory condition that can damage the heart.

N THE 30 years that I've known John Travolta, there was one sub­ject that was always taboo and that was his son, Jett. So when I heard the news that Jett had died while on holiday in the Bahamas, I couldn't even begin to imagine the hurt and the pain John must be feeling.

Because, despite the fact that he is one of the world's most successful film stars, John was also a father, and a man who would do anything to protect his family.

It was an instinct which became even more important to the actor after Jett was diagnosed with Kawasaki disease, an illness that would burden him with a troubling predisposition to seizures and which ultimately led to his death.

For John, the loss will be devastating.

I first met the actor - or Johnny as he is known to family and friends - in 1978 on the set of Grease. Even though he was feted the world over, he was the most down-to-earth person on set.

At the time, I was an author and journalist living in Hollywood and would go on to interview John more than 15 times over the course of the next three decades.

While I wouldn't call us best friends - John has always been a private, enigmatic character - we always got on well; as far as I'm aware he never made any attempt to stop my biography, Fever: The Biography Of John Travolta.

It was during our conversations for the book that I realised just how much fatherhood meant to John.

He himself had come from a very close family. The youngest of six chil­dren, he was raised in New York by his Italian father Sam, a tyre salesman, and his Irish-English mother Helen, a high school drama teacher whom he adored.

John met the actress Kelly Preston on the set of The Experts in 1989 and they married two years later. Jett was born the following year, on April 13,1992.

He was delivered in a birthing method advocated by the Scientologist founder, Ron Hubbard, decreeing vir­tual silence because, as John explained, 'verbal statements are recorded in the mind of the baby...later that could cause fears, neuroses or even psycho­somatic illnesses'.

Weighing 81b 12oz, Jett was named not just because of his father's love of flying but in a combination of John's initials and those of his sister Ellen, Jett's godmother.

For John, it was a moment of intense joy as he told me: 'I never loved Kelly as much as I did watching her give birth to Jett. I have a feeling of stability with her. Anything could happen and we could work it out.'

Tragically, in the weeks after the birth, it was discovered that Jett had been born with a very real illness, Kawasaki disease, which causes a prolonged fever that's associated with damage to the heart and blood vessels.

Also known as mucocutaneous lymph node syndrome, it is a rare condition which in Britain affects approximately one in every 25,000 children, mainly those under the age of eight.

It first appears as a fever and can initially be difficult to distinguish from a common cold. But telltale signs such as conjunctivitis and swollen neck glands soon appear, along with a blotchy rash, and the hands, feet, tongue and lips swell and can turn purple.

It can be treated using a combination of aspirin and the antibody immuno-globulin, but while most children make a full recovery, one in 50 cases leads to death, normally because the condi­tion was not diagnosed early enough.

The cause is still unknown, although it's thought that a virus or bacterial infection may be responsible.

For their part, John and Kelly have always believed that the chemicals in household cleaners and fertilisers were to blame and have campaigned for a cleaner environment ever since.

Now, I understand, they will set up a charitable organisation in Jett's memory which will continue their crusade and is typical of John's need to act in a crisis.

In private, he and Kelly were always very practical and positive about Jett's health. They put him on a detoxification programme and encouraged his love of the outdoors, of sports, swimming, cycling and hiking.

In public, John clearly adored his son and spoke of him in glowing terms but he was always wary of delving too deeply into the details of his illness. It was simply too painful a subject.

Even when people saw Jett and it was obvious something was wrong, John refused to talk about it.

In fact, the only time John made any public comment was when it was suggested that his son was autistic, an allegation he strongly denied and which hurt him deeply.

The desire to protect Jett informed everything John did. The actor is as famous for his love of flying as he is for his movie career and has even flown for the Australian airline Qantas when not fulfilling his Hollywood commit­ments. After Jett was born, though, I thought he might give it all up, given the inherent dangers involved.

Instead, the opposite was true, as John became even more determined that he and he alone, would be the one to fly the family wherever they wanted to go. That way, he could guarantee their safety.

It is this need to be in control that will be most difficult for him now and there will inevitably be many dark days ahead.

While nothing can prepare a person for the loss of their child, there is, sadly, a previous episode in John's life which will help him to cope now.

In 1976, when John was a 22-year-old teen idol receiving 10,000 fan letters a week, he was offered a part in the TV movie The Boy In The Plastic Bubble about a boy born with a deficient immune system.

The Peyton Place star, Diana Hyland, played his on-screen mother and would become one of the greatest influences in John's life.

Travolta's perpetual charm kicked in from day one of Bubble. But he found something happen­ing to him. His attitude to women had been, to put it kindly, cavalier. He hid deeper feelings for them out of fear of a fun relationship turning permanent. But with Diana it was different.

'On our first meeting, I was just incredibly attracted to this woman,' he told me.

'She'd gone through a rough marriage (divorcing actor Joe Goodson and keeping their three-year-old son, Zachary), a lot of career ups and downs, and had come out at peace with her­self. It was very sexy. The most important things in her life were the relationships.

'She really savoured the people around her. At the time, I was open, just fooling around with a couple of little affairs. I had almost decided to stop looking for anyone special, and then she came along...'

The couple began an intense affair but in the Christmas of that year, tragedy struck.

Diana thought she had caught flu and was plagued by back trouble, aches and pains throughout the Christmas of 1976.

By the time she saw her doctor in the New Year, she was told that cancer had spread throughout her body. There was nothing anyone could do.

John was filming Saturday Night Fever but on March 26, 1977, he flew to Diana's family home in Ohio. Within 24 hours, she was dead. They had been together for just seven months but for John it felt like a lifetime.

He later told me: 'I was with her all through the night before she died. I held her, touched her, all through those hours.

'I always feel she is with me -1 mean, her intentions are. Diana always wanted the world for me in every possible way.'

Diana was cremated, and at the subsequent memorial gathering at her home, Travolta wore the white suit he had bought for a trip they had planned to Rio.

He never donned it again. Lake a bridal gown, it was wrapped and boxed and sent to his childhood home in Englewood, New Jersey.

It was an experience that affected John deeply and irrevocably. There's always been a sense of detachment about the actor, even when he's fooling around or trying to convince you -and himself -? that he will start the diet next week.

His sister Ellen once explained to me: 'He was devastated not only by the loss but because there was nothing he could do.

'Until Diana's death, John felt in control of his own fate and had never experi­enced anything tragic. He was never the same. Some­thing like that changes you for ever.'

John threw himself into work but after fulfilling his commitments on the Satur­day Night Fever set, he hid away from the world.

He turned down the Richard Gere role in Amer­ican Gigolo and found him­self more and more drawn to the Scientology movement, to which the actress Joan Prather had converted him the previous year.

He has remained a practising Scientologist ever since and his beliefs will no doubt provide some comfort.

The Travolta clan will also pull together. John has always been the one to organise family get-togethers, personally flying his brothers and sisters to and from his home, and now they will be there for him.

And now, of course, he has Kelly and their eight-year-old daughter, Ella Blue. Their fam­ily will never be the same but they will have each other to turn to in then* grief.

It seems so unfair that John, in particular, should have suf­fered so much loss in his life. My prayers and thoughts go out to him and to Kelly at this deso­late time.

Read the John Travolta interview, Click Here.

Read about Douglas Thompson's biography of John Travolta, Click Here

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