At the first glance, James Harrison would seem just like any other ordinary guy, who loves his daughter and grandchildren, collects stamps, and travels around the country in his caravan. But with a closer look, you will realize that the 81- year- old Australian is a medical marvel, saving 2 million lives over the course of his 1,100 blood donations!
World’s Most Prolific Blood Donor
Dubbed as the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’, Harrison is the world’s most prolific blood donor. He had donated his extremely rare kind of blood for almost 60 years. Harrison had also been featured in the Guinness World Records in 2003.
Harrison had been giving blood every few weeks since he was 18 years old and hadn’t missed an appointment since. In an interview with CNN, he told that at the age of 14 he had to undergo a major chest operation. One of his lungs had to be removed. He required 13 liters of blood to survive the risky operation. Realizing that the blood donated by the unknown people had saved his life, he pledged to donate blood himself.
A Deadly Problem
Soon after he started donating, the doctors realized that his blood could be an answer to a deadly problem. At that time, thousands of babies were dying in Australia because of the Rhesus disease. Women were having multiple miscarriages and many babies were being born with permanent brain damage.
Rhesus disease occurs when the mother has a rhesus- negative blood and the baby in her womb has rhesus- positive blood inherited from the father. This creates an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and her unborn baby’s blood. In such a case, the mother may produce antibodies that destroy the baby’s “foreign” blood cells.
It was discovered that Harrison’s blood contained a rare and unusual antibody. This could be used to make Anti-D, a life-saving vaccine. Since then he had been working with the doctors and can be credited with saving the lives of more than 2 million babies, including his own grandson, Scott, according to the Red Cross Blood Service.
Doctors believe that Harrison’s blood is special because of the blood transfusion that he underwent at the age of 14. It is supposed that he was mistakenly given rhesus positive blood, as a result of which, he produces so many antibodies, and that if he were to receive positive blood again, he could die.
Term it a miracle or God’s grace, Harrison’s blood held the golden key to protecting newborns from the deadly disease.
Thank You, James!
Harrison is considered a national hero and has won numerous awards, yet he considers it nothing different from ordinary. “It costs me nothing- only time. And I have plenty of time’, says Harrison. Though now he can donate blood no more because of the age restriction of the Australia Red Cross Blood Service, James Harrison truly hopes that other donors come forward and lend their hand to this noble cause. He says, “I could say it’s the only record that I hope is broken because if they do, they have donated a thousand donations.”
Australia, it seems, would surely have been a different place without him!