Local doctor helps out in Haiti

A local pediatrician set out to the devastated country to provide medical assistance to some of the approximate 194,00 injured by the earthquake that struck two weeks ago.

By Laura Tate / Editor

Malibu resident Dr. Jason B. Litten left for Haiti last week Wednesday as part of the humanitarian organization “Project Haiti Heart’s” mission to provide humanitarian and medical assistance to earthquake victims.

By 10 a.m. on the second day after he arrived he had seen 200 patients. By noon, he had resuscitated a 91-year-old man who was pulled from the rubble after being buried nine days. “He’s gonna to make it – That’s a will to live!” Litten wrote on his Facebook page.

The third day he was there, he saw a six-week-old baby who was found in the rubble, and gave a 12-day-old baby girl-born by C-section “DURING the quake”-her first physical examination. By Saturday afternoon, Litten had seen a total of 574 patients.

And Monday morning, he delivered a baby girl under the most primitive of circumstances.

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“Last night was the most horrible and wonderful of my life!” Litten posted on Facebook. “The stories abound … We’ll talk when I return. For now, meet Clara. She was born at 4:17 a.m. in a tent.”

Litten is senior medical scientist with Thousand Oaks-based Amgen Incorporated. He is part of a team that went to Haiti for 10 days to provide whatever medical services are required, joining other medical professionals from around the world who are donating their time and expertise to help Haiti after a 7.0 earthquake on Jan. 12 struck the island country, flattening its capital, Port-au-Prince, and causing widespread damage elsewhere.

The Haitian Health Ministry has estimated that 150,000 people have died as a result of the quake. Other organizations put that toll as high as 200,000, with 194,000 injured.

Haiti’s infrastructure was already undermined by extreme poverty and political violence for much of its history before the quake hit, leaving the care of its children in even more dire need.

According to CNN.com, there are 300,000 children younger than two years of age who are in need of nutritional support, and 90 percent of Port-au-Prince’s schools have been destroyed.

“My goal is to serve in any way I can,” Litten stated in a press release by AmeriHealth, a New Jersey insurance company, which is financially sponsoring his mission. “I believe that most physicians would do the same if their obligations allowed them.  Fortunately, I’m able to go, for which I feel fortunate.”

Litten’s brother, Brian J. Litten, is a senior executive with AmeriHealth, which is covering the cost of Litten’s airfare and essential materials such as a sleeping bag, insect repellent, mosquito tents and other items.

As Jason B. Litten found time in between taking care of hundreds of patients to take photos and post them along with his updates on Facebook, his family and friends responded with encouragement and praise. “It makes all those years of schooling worth it,” his brother Jordan Litten wrote. “Congrats bro. It’s so surreal. It’s spine chilling. Keep up the good work and come home safe.”

The “schooling” that Jason Litten’s brother wrote of includes a degree in Applied Economics and Management from Cornell University, a degree in medicine from Emory University School of Medicine, a degree in Pediatric Medicine from the University of Miami, and a fellowship in Pediatric Hematology and Oncology from UT Southwestern.

Litten, 36, will be coming home this Saturday to tell the full story of his experience in helping those suffering from the quake and its some 50 aftershocks that rumble through the devastation.

In his postings, he mentioned the desolation, but also the hope and the help of organizations that have joined the rescue and humanitarian efforts. “It’s easy to see the horror in Port-au-Prince these days. You have to look harder to find the beauty. I have found quite a bit in the warm, tireless and passionate people with whom I’m working: NYC EMT, International Medical Relief, Taiwan Root (my team) NorCross, U.S. Army …”

He also wrote of the immediate results of his work. After helping a young girl, whose picture he posted, he wrote: “A fractured hip, a homemade crutch and a million dollar smile!”

More information on Project Haiti Heart can be obtained online at www.projecthaitiheart.org

Ways to help Haiti

The best way to help victims of the Haitian earthquake is to donate money to humanitarian and rescue organizations.

– Olive Tree Project: a charitable initiative focused on children in Haiti,  www.olivetreeprojects.com

– Heart to Heart International: a health humanitarian organization, www.hearttoheart.org

– American Jewish Worldwide Service: providing search and rescue, food and shelter, emergency health services, among other help, www.ajws.org

– Red Cross: links to partners offering help in various ways, www.redcross.org

– Doctors Without Borders: providing emergency medical care-most pressing need is surgery, www.doctorswithoutborders.org

– Care: International aid group addressing immediate needs, www.care.org

– World Vision: providing Haiti with 18 tons of supplies, including blankets, tarps and water containers. Worldvision.org

– UNICEF: provides children internationally with healthcare, education, nutrition and emergency relief, www.unicefusa.org

– Oxfam: providing clean water, shelter and sanitation and helping people recover, oxfamamerican.org

– Salvation Army: given official responsibility to care for more than 20,000 people made homeless by the earthquake, salvationarmy.org

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The Malibu Times is the first newspaper in Malibu, serving the community since 1946.

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