A 78-year-old man has been helping fight rhesus disease for more than 60 years.His name is James Harrison, and he’s a really tough guy.
Harrison, who lives near Australia’s central coast,has been dubbed “The Man with the Golden Arm” and a national hero in Australia for saving more than two million babies’ lives by donating his plasma.His blood carries very rare antibodies that are used to create the vaccine Anti-D for Rhesus disease, a condition affecting up to 17% of pregnant women in Australia.Harrison has been giving blood every few weeks since he was 18 years old and has resulted in over 1,100 donations.
Mr Harrison told CNN that when he was 14-years-old, he had a chest operation where they removed one of his lungs and in return received 13 liters of blood. Because of this, he was influenced to become a donor himself, not knowing the affect he would have.
When he started donating, his blood was deemed so special his life was insured for one million Australian dollars.
Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service told CNN that up until 1967, thousands of babies in Australia were dying each year of Rhesus disease. Other newborns suffered permanent brain damage because of the condition.The disease creates an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and her unborn baby’s blood. It stems from one having Rh-positive blood and the other Rh-negative.After his blood type was discovered, Mr Harrison volunteered to undergo a series of tests to help develop the Anti-D vaccine,which effectively prevents women with RhD negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy.Among the recipients of Anti-D is Harrison’s daughter Tracey; she was injected after having her first son.
Falkenmire also told CNN that “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.”
In fact, every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come directly from Mr Harrison’s blood. He has saved countless lives, and will no doubt continue to for the foreseeable future.Falkenmire called Harrison “irreplaceable” but said the Australian Red Cross Blood Service is hoping another donor with the antibodies will come forward. Harrison can donate blood for only three more years, as the age limit in Australia is 81.