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Margaret Aguirre Headshot

Dispatch from Port-au-Prince

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When I wrote this, it was 72 hours after the earthquake hit and I'm on the ground with our International Medical Corps team. We are set up in a mobile hospital in the parking lot of a collapsed hospital across from the Presidential Palace.

It is important for people in the U.S. and around the world to know the situation on the ground here -- and the most important fact is that time is of the essence. Most earthquake victims die within 3 days and without medical attention very treatable injuries become life-threatening.

That's the situation we are in right now.

Here at the hospital, or rather outside the hospital, we saw a woman lying on a gurney with her right leg shorn off at the knee. It was completely cut to the side and hanging by a ligament. The rest of her leg was literally next to her and she was gazing off with no expression on her face and evidently just in shock.

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This woman needs an amputation, a proper amputation. Without the proper supplies and a proper amputation this woman will not make it. The best we could do was to provide painkiller, make sure her wounds were dressed and try to comfort her.

There are hundreds of people in this parking lot waiting for medical help. And with 3 million hurt and homeless, this kind of scene is playing thousands of times every hour, every day. There are so many people in a similar situation as this woman -- severe head traumas, compound fractures, severe bleeding -- it really brings home how important it is to get the supplies in quickly and the equipment to stave the loss of life.

Right now every hour counts. The dangers will soon shift from dealing with injuries to waterborne illness and infectious disease, sicknesses that are the result of not having clean water or sanitation and living in such close proximity to thousands of other people. On top of that, Haiti's health care infrastructure is devastated. Doctors and nurses are dead. Hospitals are collapsed. Supplies and medical technologies are buried in the rubble.

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That means that once the immediate emergency is over, another will begin -- rebuilding and getting Haiti's health care infrastructure back on track so they can care for themselves again.

This is International Medical Corps' mission -- to provide life-saving relief when a population is hit by the unthinkable and then work side by side with them to rebuild and start anew. Never before have I understood just how profound that transition is, from relief to development, until here in Port-au-Prince, where this important work will matter now and for long to come.

To help the people of Haiti, please visit our website -- www.imcworldwide.org - or text "HAITI" to 85944 to donate $10 to our relief effort. Every dollar counts.