January 7, 2009
Speculation Surrounds Jett Travolta’s Death
Medical experts are struggling to understand what caused the death of Jett Travolta, 16-year-old son of actors John Travolta and Kelly Preston.
An undertaker in the Bahamas reported a seizure as the cause of Jett's death on Friday, but family representatives have refused to give any further details.
"We're dealing with a massive lack of information," said Dr. Bruce Cohen, a staff neurologist at the Cleveland Clinic.
Many sources have speculated ongoing problems with the boy's health for years, some suggested he had autism, which Travolta has denied.
Up to one-third of children with autism have some sort of seizure disorder, said Dr. Michael Kohrman, a University of Chicago pediatric neurologist. But autism is one of several possible causes for seizures.
More than 3 million Americans are affected by epilepsy "“ a chronic disorder caused by abnormal, excessive or synchronous neuronal activity in the brain, resulting in seizures.
"Sudden death in epilepsy is not an unheard-of phenomenon," said Cohen.
He said seizures lasting more than 15 or 20 minutes could result in death. Also, about one in 1,000 epileptics die each year from a condition doctors call "sudep," or a sudden unexplained death that typically occurs with no sign of a seizure.
John Travolta has said his son was successfully treated when he was 2 for a rare disease called Kawasaki syndrome, which can lead to heart disease and related problems.
Kawasaki syndrome can cause inflammation in blood vessels and arteries. It typically features a persistent high fever accompanied by symptoms that can include bloodshot eyes; swelling in hands, feet and neck lymph nodes; a red rash on the arms and legs; and cracked, swollen lips.
However, medical professionals who had no association with the Jett's case told the Associated Press that "while Kawasaki syndrome is poorly understood, it's extremely unlikely the disease had anything to do with the teen's death."
Jett's body was cremated, and no autopsy report has been released, which has spurred a whirlwind of outside speculation.
Travolta and Preston subscribe to the religion of Scientology, and the church is not commenting on their case.
Kelly Preston blamed household cleaners and fertilizers for the disease and said a detoxification program based on Scientology teachings helped improve his health, according to People magazine.
Image Courtesy UPI
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