Meet The Aussie With a Golden Arm
19 May 2018 at 10:00 am
The pioneer behind a vaccine program which has saved more than 2.4 million unborn babies made his 1,173rd and final plasma donation last Friday.
Hailing from Umina, New South Wales, James Harrison first began donating his blood 61 years ago.
It’s because of this that the 81 year old has been dubbed the “man with the golden arm.”
Shortly after he began donating his blood as a teen, with the aid of doctors, Harrison discovered that he has a rare blood composition that has been proven to create preventative treatment against Rhesus disease (RhoD).
This blood disease can affect pregnant women in their second or subsequent pregnancies, causing their antibodies to shatter the blood cells of their unborn babies resulting in babies being born anaemic, jaundice or in severe cases, causing them to be stillborn.
Consequently, the Anti-D vaccine created from Harrison’s blood donations has saved no fewer than 2.4 million unborn babies from these fates.
Following the discovery of his unique blood, Harrison’s life was in fact insured for $1 million.
Harrison himself underwent serious chest surgery when he was 14 years of age and required 13 litres of blood for the procedure.
Following these experiences, and recognising that blood donations saved his own life, he in turn wanted to give back and began donating blood once he reached the legal blood-donating age of the time at 18.
He is now the pioneer of Australia’s Anti-D program.
Thanks to Harrison, Australia has become the first country to produce enough of its own Anti-D for use against Rhesus disease.
Commenting on his blood donating record, Harrison said: “I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause.”