Meet the 'man with the golden arm' who saved 2.4 million babies


Aussie James Harrison has donated 1,117 bags of blood, which contains an antibody used to help treat babies with Rhesus disease, a form of anaemia, which affects babies while they're in the womb and can be fatal.

When Mr Harrison started donating, his blood was deemed so special that his life was insured for one million Australian dollars.

Jemma Falkenmire, spokesperson for the Blood Service, said: "Every bag of blood is precious, but James' blood is particularly extraordinary".

The Blood Service is also today issuing a call for more male donors to follow in Mr Harrison's footsteps. His blood has special disease-fighting antibodies which medical professionals have used to develop an injection called AntiD, which combats against rhesus disease.

"And more than 17 percent of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives".

Meanwhile, doctors in Australia were struggling to figure out why thousands of births in the country were resulting in miscarriages, stillbirths or brain defects for the babies.

Rhesus disease is a medical condition where the antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood begin attacking the newborn baby's blood cells, according to Britain's National Health Service (NHS).

As recalled by the Washington Post, Harrison chose to become a blood donor when he was 14-years-old, after he survived a chest operation that required the removal of one of his lungs, keeping him in the hospital for three months.

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The Anti-D injections work by preventing the woman's body from developing potentially harmful antibodies during pregnancy that could affect her next pregnancy.

Harrison's blood was RhD negative with RhD positive antibodies. Australia became the first country in the world to be self-sufficient in the supply of Anti-D.

Researchers scoured blood banks to see whose blood might contain this antibody - and found a donor in New South Wales by the name of James Harrison. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James' blood. "He has saved millions of babies".

After his surgery, Harrison promised to become a blood donor to help others. This included Harrison's own grandchildren, as his daughter Tracey required an Anti-D injection in 1992, shortly after her first of two children was born.

"I'd keep on going if they'd let me", he told the Herald.

When most of the people retire, they are presented with a gold watch.

"I hope it's a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause", Harrison said in a statement.