Final donation for man whose blood helped save 2.4 million babies

Credit Ten News

But if Harrison had his way, he'd still be offering up his golden arm to donate even more. He and Anti-D are credited with saving the lives of more than 2 million babies, according to the Australian Red Cross blood service: That's 2 million lives saved by one man's blood. Known as the "Man with the Golden Arm", Harrison has rare antibodies in his blood that can be used for injections that save babies' lives. Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody, so it was quite revolutionary at the time'. The occasion marked the end of a monumental chapter.

Doctors use Harrison's blood to create anti-D, a treatment for Rhesus disease.

This is a potentially deadly condition that can occur when mothers and their unborn babies have incompatible blood types. This could lead stillbirths, hearing impairment, blindness or brain damage among children.

Rhesus disease happens when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive), inherited from its father. If their baby has Rh-positive blood, then the mother's body considers the unborn baby a threat, associating it with a virus or a bacteria.

Harrison's blood is just as extraordinary as his blood donation history.

The affectionate nickname comes from homage to the Australian senior's astonishing blood donor track record and the game-changing effect that his donations have had on his country.

HDN caused the death of thousands of babies in Australia before the researchers discovered Anti-D injection in the 60s.

Credit Ten News
Credit Ten News

Scientists suspect this has something to do with the 13 units of blood transfusions he received after undergoing major chest surgery when he was 14 years old.

Mr Harrison's kindness leaves a remarkable legacy, and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat it.

Jemma Falkenmire, spokesperson for the Blood Service, said: 'Australia owes a big thank you to James Harrison.

The antibodies can continue attacking the baby's red blood cells for a few months after birth. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967. Falkenmire said. "And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives". It prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy. "I increased the population by so many million, I think". So that makes me feel good. With Harrison's antibodies in her blood, little Samuel is her fourth happy and healthy baby.

Ms Falkenmire said that up until 1967, 'there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why and it was bad.

One of the countless mothers he has helped over the decades is Joy Barnes, who works at the Red Cross Blood Bank in Sydney.

Harrison is considered a national hero, and has won numerous awards. "It's something I can do".

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