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For Waynesboro man, giving is in his blood

November 02, 2007|By JENNIFER FITCH

WAYNESBORO, Pa. - It was one experience in 1962 that changed Edward R. Kisslak's life and, in turn, hundreds of others.

The emotional phone call came from the tearful mother of a sick little girl.

The woman, a friend's wife, told Kisslak that his blood donation had possibly saved her daughter's life.

"I never forgot that, so that got me hooked," Kisslak said.

Since then, the Waynesboro man has donated four to six pints of blood every year. That translates into 223 pints, which is one pint short of 28 gallons.

"Each unit of blood, they say, can save three lives. He very well could've saved 669 lives," said Tom Reardon, executive director of the Franklin County, Pa., chapter of the American Red Cross.

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Kisslak's goal is to reach the 30-gallon mark within the next few years. The 72-year-old mused, though, that he should've started donating sooner.

"I could've been a 35- or 40-gallon donor," Kisslak said.

"The way I figure, as long as I'm healthy, someone needs it more than I do," he said.

The Red Cross is losing its faithful, long-term donors due to age and health problems, according to Joe Stringent, a donor resources representative in Johnstown, Pa.

"We don't have the younger ones stepping up," he said.

Kisslak's blood type is O, the so-called "universal" blood that can be given to patients with other blood types. His wife, Delores, and daughter have the same blood type and are, respectively, two-gallon and one-gallon donors.

Kisslak has recruited area residents for blood drives, often relying on his contacts developed as a retired U.S. Air Force chief master sergeant.

"There's a lot of retired military in the area, so I call around," Kisslak said.

When working at the Pentagon for six years, Kisslak was contacted about a need for blood and quickly organized a donation event in a section of the parking lot. He talked to the people who worked for him, who then talked to the people working for them.

"I said, 'Tell me where the thing's going to be, and I'll have the guys there,'" he said.

Kisslak said he also organized a bloodmobile at Cascade American Legion Post 239 and got about 20 donors there. He even tried bribing some men with six-packs of beer.

Kisslak often remembers that phone call from 45 years ago as well as a saying he heard once.

"The most important aspect of human life is that of saving one," he said.

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