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Ravalli Republic, David Erickson, Associated Press
Jim Kyle of Darby, Mont. shows every one of the 23 pins he has received from the American Red Cross, each one representing a gallon of blood he has donated in Hamilton, Mont. on Monday, Jan. 2, 2012. Since 1943, the 86-year-old retiree from Darby has donated 185 units of blood. That's over 23 gallons.

DARBY, Mont. — Almost seven decades ago, Jim Kyle donated his first pint of blood. And that first unit has turned into a lifetime of giving.

Since 1943, the 86-year-old retiree from Darby has donated 185 units of blood. That's over 23 gallons.

"It helps people," Kyle said. "I'm glad to help in that way."

Every two seconds, someone in the United States needs blood, according to the American Red Cross. That means 38,000 blood donations are needed every day.

And it is said that one blood donation has the potential to help three people. So over the years, Kyle has potentially saved 555 lives.

"I'm glad to be able to do it," Kyle said.

That first donation came a bit on a whim. While visiting Bozeman for a church camp meeting, then-17-year-old Kyle heard on the radio that the local hospital was in need of blood.

"Another fellow and I just went in and had our blood tested," Kyle said.

Turns out Kyle's blood type is O negative — the universal donor and the type most requested by hospitals.

"I guess that's why they keep after me," Kyle joked.

Those 185 pints of blood Kyle has doled out over the years? Turns out that's equivalent to his weight.

Following a blood draw in Hamilton last spring, Kyle realized the correlation.

"I got to thinking, 'I'd like to get on scales and get a picture of those matching numbers, but where could I do that?'"

He remembered the big scales at Hamilton Pharmacy, formerly Downing Drug in Hamilton.

"I could remember (the scales) from when I was a little kid I just happened to think of them," Kyle said.

And Kyle's suspicion was right. His lean 180-pound frame was equal the amount of blood he had given over the years.

His desire to help others was also passed down to children. Three of Kyle's four kids are regular donors. And rough estimates put his family's donations at over 30 gallons, he said.

However, Kyle, a retired lab technician from Rocky Mountain Laboratory, remains humble toward the gifts he's given over the years. Whether you're a regular donor like him or someone drawing blood for the first time, each donation is essential.

"I feel that any honor that comes with giving blood should be shared equally with that first time blood donor whose one unit of blood is equal to any one donation I have made," Kyle said. "It is just that I have had more time for giving.

"It's nothing to brag about or anything. One donation they give is just as important as any other donation."

Information from: Ravalli Republic, http://www.ravallirepublic.com