John Travolta Testifies About Son Jett’s Seizure Disorder at Extortion Trial

Actor John Travolta continued his testimony today in a trial of a paramedic and a former Bahamian senator  who tried to extort money from the star. The two men threatened to release private details of the rescue effort to save the life of his 16 year old son, Jett.  Jett,  who had suffered a seizure, died after CPR attempts to revive him were unsuccessful. Travolta said Jett was autistic and suffered seizures every five to 10 days. He said the seizures would last 45 seconds to a minute and Jett typically slept for12 hours after each one.

A seizure is the physical findings or changes in behavior that occur after an episode of abnormal electrical activity in the brain. There is a broad spectrum of how this abnormal activity is manifested- anything from a short period of inattentiveness or staring (absence seizures) to a seizure which causes whole body shaking (generalized tonic-clonic seizures). Most seizures last 5 minutes or less. Afterwards, the individual will seem very tired and will go to sleep. We will discuss other aspects of seizures/epilepsy in future blogs on this website, however it is important to know what to do if you witness someone having a seizure.

What To Do If You See Someone Having a Seizure

If you see someone having a seizure with convulsions and/or loss of consciousness, here’s how you can help:

  1. Roll the person on his or her side to prevent choking on any fluids or vomit.
  2. Cushion the person’s head.
  3. Loosen any tight clothing around the neck.
  4. Keep the person’s airway open. If necessary, grip the person’s jaw gently and tilt his or her head back.
  5. Do NOT restrict the person from moving unless he or she is in danger.
  6. Do NOT put anything into the person’s mouth, not even medicine or liquid.These can cause choking or damage to the person’s jaw, tongue, or teeth. Contrary to widespread belief, people cannot swallow their tongues during a seizure or any other time.
  7. Remove any sharp or solid objects that the person might hit during the seizure.
  8. Note how long the seizure lasts and what symptoms occurred so you can tell a doctor or emergency personnel if necessary.
  9. Stay with the person until the seizure ends.

The person is pregnant or has diabetes.

  • The seizure happened in water.
  • The seizure lasts longer than 5 minutes.
  • The person does not begin breathing again or does not return to consciousness after the seizure stops.
  • Another seizure starts before the person regains consciousness.
  • The person injures himself or herself during the seizure.
  • This is a first seizure or you think it might be. If in doubt, check to see if the person has a medical identification card or jewelry stating that they have epilepsy or a seizure disorder.

After the seizure ends, the person will probably be groggy and tired. He or she also may have a headache and be confused or embarrassed. Be patient with the person and try to help him or her find a place to rest if he or she is tired or doesn’t feel well. If necessary, offer to call a taxi, a friend, or a relative to help the person get home safely.

(Source: NINDS)

For more information:

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Mark Boguski, M.D., Ph.D. is on the faculty of Harvard Medical School and is a member of the Society for Participatory Medicine, "a movement in which networked patients shift from being mere passengers to responsible drivers of their health" and in which professional health care providers encourage "empowered patients" and value them as full partners in managing their health and wellness.

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