This man's blood has saved the lives of two million babies

This man's blood has saved the lives of two million babies

James 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 loves his daughter and grandchildren, collects stamps, and goes for walks near his home on Australia's central coast. Harrison's plasma contains an antibody that has saved the lives of 2.4 million babies. The reasons can be traced back to a serious medical procedure he underwent as a child. "It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor". Doctors had removed one of his lungs in a procedure that had taken several hours - and would keep him hospitalized for three months. His blood, they said, could be the answer to a deadly problem.

According to Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, more than 17% of Australian women are at risk of developing the condition. That's a unsafe condition that develops when a woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and has a baby in her womb with RhD positive blood. In the worst cases, it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies.

Soon after donating, he was found to have Rhesus-negative (Rh-) blood and Rhesus-positive (Rh+) antibodies.

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. His blood has special disease-fighting antibodies which medical professionals have used to develop an injection called AntiD, which combats against rhesus disease.

He now has to retire, as he reached the donor age limit and everyone wanted to protect his health.

But Harrison was alive, thanks in large part to a vast quantity of transfused blood he had received, his father explained.

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At 14, Harrison made a pledge that he would donate blood when he turned 18 after a major chest surgery that required 13-liters (0.26 gal) of blood. 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 ampule of Anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it". However, an extraordinary Australian man deserves a lot more than that. They realized they could administer Anti-D to mothers and save the babies.

By then, Harrison had been donating whole blood regularly for more than a decade.

Blood service officials said their hope is that more blood donors will step forward; perhaps there will be another James Harrison among them.

"All we can do is hope there will be people out there generous enough to do it, and selflessly in the way he's done", she said.

Harrison is considered a national hero, and has won numerous awards. 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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