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Australian James Harrison Saves 2 Million Babies through Blood Donations

( [email protected] ) Jun 12, 2015 06:16 PM EDT
Dubbed as "The Man with the Golden Arm," 78-year old Australian James Harrison has donated blood for 60 years--saving an estimated 2 million babies throughout the process.
Harrison's heroism is celebrated and he has won several awards for it. He has already donated plasma more than 1,000 times and he continues to do so until today.

Dubbed as "The Man with the Golden Arm," 78-year old Australian James Harrison has donated blood for 60 years -- saving an estimated 2 million babies throughout the process.

Donating blood almost every week, People reported that Harrison never once watched the needle go into his arm because he "can't stand the pain."

However, Harrison's blood contained a unique antibody that has saved babies from getting affected by rhesus disease.

In a report by CNN, Harrison recalled, "In 1951, I had a chest operation where they removed a lung -- and I was 14."

"When I came out of the operation, or a couple days after, my father was explaining what had happened. He said I had (received) 13 units (liters) of blood and my life had been saved by unknown people. He was a donor himself, so I said when I'm old enough, I'll become a blood donor," he added.

When the doctors found out about it, they called Harrison and asked if he could donate regularly because it could save a lot of lives.

Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service explained that thousands of babies were dying every year until 1967, and they did not know why.

"Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage," she added.

It was found that all that was a result of the rhesus disease, which causes brain damage and even death for babies. Rhesus disease is a condition wherein the blood of a pregnant woman attacks her baby's blood cells.

"Every bag of blood is precious, but James' blood is particularly extraordinary," Falkenmire said. "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 batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James' blood."

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

Harrison's heroism is celebrated and he has won several awards for it. He has already donated plasma more than 1,000 times and he continues to do so until today.

Falkenmire believes that it will be difficult for them to find someone to take Harrison's shoes.

"He will have to retire in the next couple years, and I guess for us the hope is there will be people who will donate, who will also ... have this antibody and become life savers in the same way he has, and 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," says Falkenmire.