In five years at LSU, Lyle Hitt has personified what it means to be a student-athlete on and off the field. A starter at offensive guard for 29 straight games, Hitt went through a life-changing experience last summer when he attended a medical mission trip in the Dominican Republic.
Hitt was with his two younger brothers, including Mason, who he will go up against this Saturday against Louisiana Tech. Mason is a defensive tackle for the Bulldogs. Hitt has always displayed a passion for the medical field and he hopes to be involved in future medical missions.
“It’s something that was placed on my heart a long time ago, and I finally got the opportunity to go on a medical mission trip,” Hitt said. “It was a great experience, especially doing it with my brothers. They were encouraging with it. It was definitely a life-changing experience and something I always remember and cherish.”
What Hitt took out of the experience is a lesson we all could learn.
“You have to always be grateful for what you have,” the Baton Rouge native said. “We gripe and complain about the littlest things and the people down there have next to nothing. Something I really took from the trip is that, in any circumstance, make the best of the opportunity that presents itself.”
Hitt, a three-time member of the Southeastern Conference Honor Roll, chronicled his four-day trip in a series of journal entries that he wrote for LSUsports.net. His journey is below:
Day 1: May 26, 2009
We got an early start this morning, around 6:30. We began with medical orientation where we were assigned jobs and set up stations for the medical clinic. I was placed in the “Triage” center where I would take blood pressure, weight, and age. I was excited to get to be hands on with so many people. We worked the rest of the morning sorting out medicine for the pharmacy and getting trained for the day.
After lunch we set out for the village we would see that afternoon. The village was very small with dirt roads, ragged-out houses with patched up roofs. They used anything to patch roofs like rocks, bricks, pieces of wood, etc. We unloaded the truck into the church, set up our clinic and shortly after began to work.
We saw patients all day with ragged-out clothes, worn out shoes, all covered in dirt. There was this cute little girl that hung around a little bit with little braids and beads in her hair. I had to take a picture with her. We saw almost 80 people today and each one my heart went out to more and more. I got so frustrated with my inability to communicate with the villagers. I should have studied up on my Spanish more. After seeing all the patients we loaded back up and headed back to the hotel. Once we got back, we went to the beach which was just a short walk away. It was beautiful with a little peninsula where we hung for a little bit.
We had a worship service at night and the speaker really challenged me with being thankful and having a genuine heart for being here. I am looking forward to see what God has for me this week.
Day 2: May 27, 2009
Today was a little more challenging in the sense of the amount of work we had to do. We held two clinics. I got to work with Dr. Will Sanders today, one of the two doctors on the trip. He really was great at teaching me and explaining to me what he was doing, why he was doing it, and then would explain the diagnosis.
He allowed me to see an eye with cataracts and palpate a baby’s umbilical hernia. It was great to be able to work with him and learn so much. I also got to assist in lancing a lady’s staph infection. We had to go into this hot room (which was literally like a sauna) to do the procedure. I got a lot of great experience today and I am looking forward to more tomorrow.
Today was hard, though. Not necessarily the physical labor, but the emotional side of the clinic got to me today. There were a couple of patients today that really got to me. One in particular was the mother of an 8 month old; she (the mother) was suffering from an STD, had 2 teeth that had almost completely rotted out, and had a tumor on the side of her face.
The tumor had been there for about a year and has progressively gotten larger, potentially meaning that it may be a malignant tumor. I know that it was going to be very hard for her to get the proper treatment she needed because of her lack of income and insurance. I will continue to pray for that lady, that she may get the proper medical care in time and that God may allow her to live to raise that pretty little girl. My heart is still broken and continues to go out to that woman.
There was another patient with Ichthyosis, which is basically a bad case of eczema from her neck to her toes. Her skin looked extremely dry, scaly and painful. The chance of contracting this disease is 1 in 100,000. All she can do for it is put lotion on it. This little girl will suffer from this skin disease for the rest of her life. So it was a pretty emotional day. When we had our group come together earlier this evening Dr. Rodney asked for people to share some of the joys of the day and I couldn’t do it. I had some good moments of the day and I learned so much, but my heart kept going out for that lady with the tumor and the little girl with the skin disease. I just wish I could do more to help these people.
We had a good small group tonight and I was especially proud of Tucker (my youngest brother) when we were going around giving praise to God for some specific things, and Tucker said something along the lines of... “Lord I praise you for joy; when we say hello to these people and they get so excited and have big smiles on their faces. Thank you for the joy that fills my soul and their souls when we interact.” That wasn’t his exact quote, but he was saying how good it was to have joy in giving these people joy. Mason (also my younger brother) and I talked about it a little later and we both shared how proud we were of him, not just for saying that, but that he came on the trip and how well he is doing in helping out at the clinic.
Day 3: May 28, 2009
Today I worked again with Will (Dr. Sanders) assisting and learning from him. It was a little different today because these people lived in a city where they had more ways of making money for their families. They were also able to see the doctors (local) more frequently if something was wrong. There were not many abnormal cases today, but again we got to minister to a lot of people.
We began clinic with a few of us telling a brief story of what God is or has done in our lives. It is usually kind of awkward for one to watch, but actually speaking and being a part of it changed my perception on it a little bit. It ended up being a pretty significant part of this trip and changed my view of things. It was so hot in that clinic with no air conditioning and very few fans. We were all drenched in sweat. It still is so enjoyable to see my little brothers do a great job and to see them enjoy helping people and trying to speak Spanish brings so much joy to my heart. I am so proud of them. Tomorrow we have clinic in the morning and we are planning to go to an orphanage tomorrow afternoon.
Day 4: May 29, 2009
Today we went to a small village right before you cross over the bridge into San Pedro. When we first got there, we walked the streets for a minute while we waited on the pastor to come open the church. It was similar looking to the village we went to the day before, but this was a poorer area than yesterday. When we were setting up the church for clinic, there was this little boy who came right up and me and when I knelt down he stretched out his arms towards me as if he wanted me to pick him up. So, of course, I picked him up and he was so cute and fun to play with. He had such a personality and the prettiest smile.
We started clinic soon after that and saw close to 80 or 90 patients today. One of the last patients was a lady that came in on a wheel chair. Right away you could tell that her legs were not even in length. One leg was normal and the other leg was propped up and the knee was 5 to 6” shorter than the other one. This lady had been in a scooter accident and her leg was broken in the accident. We soon found out that the accident occurred two months ago (mid March) and looked at the x-rays she brought in. Her femur was broken in two places -- mid femur at the distal head of the femur and between the two condyles of the femur. It was the worst break I have ever seen. I have no idea how anyone would repair this leg. She will probably never be able to walk normally on this leg again. Hopefully, the doctors will be able to fix it enough to where she can use it as a peg leg.
After clinic we went to La Romana to a girl’s orphanage. The girls’ faces lit up when they saw us. We stayed there and played with them for two hours and headed back. It was a great experience and I am glad we got to go there.