Based on this article's title, you might guess that I'm going to address the benefits of saving and backing up your computer files on a regular basis. Guess again.
I'm talking about saving much more than computer files. I'm talking about saving lives.
What that's you say? You're not a police officer or firefighter? Not a doctor or a nurse? Well, you don't have to be any of those to be a life-saving hero. You merely need a little time and the ability to withstand a needle prick. In other words, just donate blood. Cool, huh?
And get this: After you donate, a health professional will tell you to take it easy the rest of the day, while pointing you toward juice and cookies. That certainly doesn't happen at other medical visits.
So why don't you donate?
There are eligibility requirements. Supermodels need not apply, because you have to weigh at least 110 pounds. Jet-setters will be temporarily deferred if any recent trips included areas with malarial mosquitoes. And those who engage in behaviors that put them at risk for HIV or other blood-borne pathogens can't donate. (You can get the full list of deferral reasons on the Web or by calling a donation center.)
OK. Not everyone can donate. Still, it's estimated that only five percent of eligible people give blood. Yet modern medicine still needs blood products to help not only trauma victims but also surgery patients, premature babies, cancer patients, and others.
And consider this: red blood cells have a shelf life of only 42 days. Thus, to maintain an adequate supply, more people need to donate regularly.
Again: why don't you donate?
It is possible to be too young; donors must be at least 16. However, to the staff at a donor center, you're never too old.
Some folks are squeamish. If I ever witness the kind of injuries that make a blood transfusion necessary, I might get lightheaded myself. Yet I get a kick out of seeing my own blood flow purposefully into a collecting bag.
However, if simply reading that sentence made you queasy, take a deep breath and remember that you don't have to watch. Just follow the classic Victorian sex advice: "lie back and think of England" (where, by the way, you can't have spent too many months, or you'll be deferred as a precaution against the human form of "mad cow" disease).
Yes, donating takes time: usually under an hour. In the time it takes to watch a fictional character save a fictional life on TV, you could save a real one. More, in fact, since the components from one pint of blood can help save three lives.
Why am I so keen on getting you to donate?
My father oversaw the local blood bank. I grew up with the understanding that the phrase "give of yourself" should be taken literally.
I didn't have the inclination or aptitude to follow Dad into medicine. But I did pick up the habit of donating blood. Maybe not every 56 days (the allowable time-frame), but with some regularity.
What do you get for donating?
Beside the previously mentioned refreshments, not much. Some centers give stickers. Some give pins commemorating each gallon you donate. Aside from that, there are typically no tangible rewards.
Still, millions of people give blood every year. We're happy to be among the five percent who donate—but we'll be even happier if you join us.
It doesn't matter what you do for a living. You have the ability to save lives. You can be a hero. It's in your blood.