He’s been dubbed “the man with the golden arm”.
For six decades an Australian man, James Harrison has been donating blood plasma every two weeks – and the high concentration of a certain type of antibody in his blood has saved the lives of about 2,4 million babies.
James (81) told the Sydney Morning Herald the fact he’d saved so many lives and helped bring so many babies into the world makes him feel really good.
This weekend marked his last blood donation, as he’s now become too old to donate and his own health is now the priority. James’ blood contains high concentrations of a potent antibody used to make a treatment called Anti-D.
Anti-D is injected into mothers who are at risk of losing their babies to the Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease (HDN), or Rhesus disease. The disease, in which the mother’s blood attacks the unborn baby as if it were a foreign body, causes multiple miscarriages, still births and brain damage or fatal anaemia in newborns.
The same medicine is used on South African women.
Australia’s Anti-D programme only has 160 donors. Attempts to manufacture the antibodies in a laboratory have failed.
James first heard of Anti-D in 1967 when he was told his blood contained and unusually high concentration of these antibodies. Since then he’s donated blood 1 173 times.
“Every ampule of Anti-D ever made in Australia [up until now] has James in it,” says Robyn Barlow, who recruited James, the programme’s first donor. She adds that he’s saved millions of babies and that she “cries just thinking about it”.
Go to parent24.com for more information on Rhesus disease.