This Man Donated Blood Every Week For 60 Years And Saved Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies

This Man Donated Blood Every Week For 60 Years And Saved Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies

For six decades, James Harrison, 82, donated blood and has finally decided to "retire".

An 81-year-old Australian man had donated blood nearly every week for 60 years and is finally deciding to "call it a day". James Harrison is known as the "Man With the Golden Arm" and his 6-decade long contribution to society marks the end of a monumental chapter in the man's life. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service acknowledged that his acts and efforts have saved the lives of over 2.4 million Australian babies. CNN reports that there is something special about Harrison's blood as it has unique, disease-fighting antibodies. Now, these had been used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which aids in the fight against rhesus disease.



This disease forms when a condition arises during a woman's pregnancy where her blood actually starts attacking the unborn baby's blood cells. In extreme cases, the condition can lead to brain damage, or death, for the babies. Rhesus disease usually develops when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive), inherited from the father. That means that if the mother has been sensitized to rhesus-positive blood, which typically occurs during a previous pregnancy with a rhesus positive baby, she may produce antibodies that destroy the baby's "foreign" blood cells. That is a situation that could potentially be deadly for the baby. 



Meanwhile, Harrison's motive to donate blood stemmed from him being saved by blood donations when he had a major chest surgery. This took place when he was just 14, according to the Australian Red Cross Blood service and he pledged to become a donor ever since. It was only a few years later that doctors discovered that his blood contained the antibody which could be used to create Anti-D injections. When he heard about this, he was even more inspired to continue making blood plasma donations to anyone in need. He's one of no more than 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies, the blood service says. "It becomes quite humbling when they say, 'oh you've done this or you've done that or you're a hero,'" Harrison said. "It's something I can do. It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor."



"Every bag of blood is precious, but James' blood is particularly extraordinary. His blood is actually used to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James' blood." Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service said. "And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives." "In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why, and it was awful. Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage," Falkenmire told CNN in 2015. "Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody, so it was quite revolutionary at the time."




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