Australian James Harrison has given blood plasma every three weeks for 60 years and thanks to the unique antibodies in his blood, has saved the lives of 2 million babies who could have died from hemolytic disease in newborns.
78-year-old Harrison in his rare blood has antibodies that were used to develop the anti-D immunoglobulin injection that prevents the mother’s immune system with Rh negative blood type, to attack her unborn Rh positive child.
When he was 14, Harrison had severe lung surgery and a blood transfusion had saved him. Therefore he became a donor when he was old enough. At that time, thousands of babies were dying each year from hemolytic disease of newborns.
Doctors soon have found that his blood has rare antibodies that are known to prevent the mother’s Rh negative blood type to develop antibodies against children that are Rh positive and in the 60s of the last century, doctors began to use his blood plasma for production of anti- D immunoglobulin that in present time stops the development of hemolytic disease and allows safe pregnancy progress.
“Australia was one of the first countries which found a donor who has those antibodies and at that time it was revolutionary,” stated Gemma Falkenmire, from Australian Bureau of blood transfusion, for CNN. How rare are those antibodies speaks the fact that since then, in Australia were found only fifty appropriate donors.
“Each blood dose is valuable, but James’ is special. Each anti-D injection produced in Australia comes from James, “added Falkenmire. “And since more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, James has saved many lives.”
“The man with the golden arm” as they call him, still gives plasma. And he admits that he cannot stand to see blood. “I never, never watch when they inject the needle into my vein,” he said to CNN.
However, this did not prevent this hero to celebrate his thousandth donation four years ago. Then he told the media: “It’s the only record that I really want to be beaten at.”