An Australian man is being hailed a hero after donating blood that has saved millions of babies' lives. James Harrison, who is 81 years old, has donated blood over 1,173 times for the past 60 years.
Harrison has just given his blood from his "golden arm" for the last time but the bittersweet moment is nothing short of a memorable for him. He has given up to 800 ml of blood once a week during his course as a blood donor. Many doctors believe that Harrison's blood was highly sought after due to the fact that it contains unusual antibodies that can fight Rhesus D hemolytic disease.
Rhesus D Hemolytic Disease
Rhesus D hemolytic disease is described as a condition that causes molecules in a pregnant woman's blood destroy her baby's blood cells. The disease, however, does not harm the mother. This only occurs when the mother has Rhesus negative blood, RhD, and her fetus has Rhesus-positive blood, inherited from its father.
The blood becomes sensitized when the positive RhD blood is exposed to the negative blood and causes the mother's immune system to produce molecules that will fight the infection, called antibodies, that will destroy the cells. If the mother's fetus is RhD positive, the antibodies will pass through her placenta which will cause Rhesus disease. This could lead stillbirths, hearing impairment, blindness, or brain damage among children.
This disease is now treatable with a medicine called anti-D immunoglobulin. This medication helps remove the RhD blood cells in the fetus before it becomes sensitized.
James The Hero
Harrison's blood was RhD negative with RhD positive antibodies. Experts also believe that his blood is unique because after he had a lung removed at the age of 14, he was pumped with 13 units of blood.
Harrison gave his first blood donation in 1967 and every anti-D immunoglobulin ever made in Australia contains some piece of him. He is one of the 50 people in Australia with this blood type. In 1999, he was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for decades-long service. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Harrison may have prevented the death of 2.4 million babies.
He also revealed that his daughter received the anti-D vaccine.
"That resulted in my second grandson being born healthy. And that makes you feel good yourself that you saved a life there, and you saved many more and that's great," he stated.