Dubbed as “The Man with the Golden Arm”, James Harrison donates blood plasma from his right arm every week for the past 60 years.
So what exactly drove Harrison to do such noble act?
Now 78, Harrison underwent a chest operation in 1951 when he was about 14. According to his father, he received 13 liters of blood from unknown people. This inspired him to become a blood donor in the future.
Immediately after becoming a blood donor, the doctors found that Harisson possesses an unusual antibody in his blood that can possibly be the answer to a deadly disease called rhesus disease.
Rhesus disease occurs when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the fetus she’s carrying has rhesus-positive blood inherited from the father. As a consequence, a mother may develop antibodies that can destroy the baby’s blood cells.
Harisson’s antibodies were used by doctors to prevent women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during gestation. Harisson helped doctors develop the Anti-D injection in the 1960’s.
The Australian Red Cross has declared that Harisson’s blood has indeed saved 2 million lives in the country.
Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service explained: “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. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James’ blood.”
Doctors are still unable to determine the reason why Harisson has a rare blood type that is capable of saving millions of lives. But they’re considering the possibility that it was brought about by the blood transfusions he received when he was 14.
To date, Harisson is one of the 50 people in Australia with this blood type.