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Local News

St. Patrick parishioners plan medical mission trip to Guatemala

ST. CHARLES – Physician Graham Woodward had, as he said, “no idea what I was getting into” when he decided to participate this year in a medical mission trip to rural Guatemala.

“I felt called to serve,” the St. Patrick Catholic Church parishioner said, describing it as living his faith.

He and fellow church member Melissa Baumgartner, who works at Burlington Central High School as a nurse, were part of a team that tended to 900 people in four days, Baumgartner said.

She said they saw a “wide range of illnesses” – including skin rashes, back pains, infected cuts and upper respiratory conditions – and served all ages, from “teeny babies” to senior citizens.

The two have since teamed up to lead another medical mission trip to Guatemala set for June 10 to 19 through their recently formed, faith-based, nonprofit charitable foundation, Healing Hands Medical Mission.

“We have a much better idea now [about what to expect],” Baumgartner said.

They plan to return to the people of San Antonio de Padua Parish, which covers a “huge geographical area” in eastern Guatemala, with a well-rounded group of medical providers, including physicians, urgent-care doctors, nurses, a dentist and – hopefully – an optometrist, Woodward said.

Most people he and Baumgartner helped during their first mission trip didn’t have running water and had a “huge medical need,” as they lived hours away from the nearest hospital and had limited access to doctors, Woodward said.

“You feel very appreciated,” Baumgartner said.

Her daughter Rachel, a sophomore at Northern Illinois University who went on the 2015 trip, agreed. She said she brought candy for the residents and was swarmed not just by kids but their parents, too.

Woodward recognized the help Healing Hands Medical Mission has received from St. Patrick Parish in St. Charles. Most of the volunteers are from the church, he said, and Msgr. Steve Knox has been a “tremendous support.”

“We couldn’t do it by ourselves,” Woodward said.

Healing Hands Medical Mission is accepting donations for the trip, for which a $20,000 goal has been set, Woodward and Baumgartner said. Information about how to donate is available at

Know more

Visit for information about Healing Hands Mission.

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