‘Man with the golden arm’ saved millions of babies with his blood

In 1951, James Harrison a man from Australia suffered a surgery. He was only 14-year-old back then. After spending several months into the hospital, James found out he stayed alive due to a large quantity of transfused blood it was given to him. After that moment, he decided to become a donor. Even if he waited four years, because of the Australian laws, he kept his promise. So ,since he was 18-year-old, James donated regularly for 60 years. So far Australian Red Cross Blood Service estimates he saved more than 2.4 million babies.

How it’s that possible? Well, along the way, doctors have discovered that his blood contains a very rare antibody. He saved in this way a very difficult problem regarding newborns in Australia.

“In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn’t know why, and it was awful. Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage,” Jemma Falkenmire, member  of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, said for CNN.

With his help, the doctors discovered and developed the Anti-D injection. Used against the rhesus disease, it prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies while pregnant.

The Red Cross data suggests that currently almost 17% of pregnant women in Australia need the Anti-D injection. “Every bag of blood is precious, but James’ blood is particularly extraordinary. 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,” says doctor Falkenmire.

Over the years, Mr. Harrison made 1,173 blood plasma donations. In this way, “The Man with the Golden Arm,” as he’s known saved so many lives.  “It becomes quite humbling when they say, ‘oh you’ve done this or you’ve done that or you’re a hero. It’s something I can do. It’s one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor,” Mr. Harrison declares for CNN.

Now, 81-year-old, James made his last donation. The officials of Red Cross decided that their so valued donor should stop giving as a protection measure of his own health. “The end of an era. It was sad because I felt like I could keep going,” declared this hero.

James Harrison received Medal of the Order of Australia for his peerless support to the Anti-D project.

“The Red Cross and Australia can never thank a man like James enough. It’s unlikely we will ever have another blood donor willing to make this commitment,” said  the spokeswoman of Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

Humble and with a lot of humor, as always, Mr. Harrison says: Saving one baby is good. Saving two million is hard to get your head around, but if they claim that’s what it is, I’m glad to have done it.”

“Blame me for the increase in population!”



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