Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

James Harrison donated blood nearly every week for 60 years

James Harrison donated blood nearly every week for 60 years

In the 1960s, more than a decade after his first donation, James Harrison's status as the "man with the golden arm" was established when doctors found that his blood contained a rare antibody believed to be capable of combating rhesus disease in unborn infants.

The babies, it turned out, were suffering from Haemolytic Disease of the Newborn, or HDN. The terrifying complications of HDN may include anemia, jaundice, heart failure, brain damage, and even death. So he started making blood plasma donations every week. "In Australia, up until about 1967, there were thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why", Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, told CNN in 2015.

Known as "the man with the golden arm", James Harrison is estimated to have saved the lives of 2.4 million babies after giving blood nearly every week for 60 years. The medicine is given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies.

The Anti-D injections work by preventing the woman's body from developing potentially harmful antibodies during pregnancy that could affect her next pregnancy.

Harrison can no longer donate blood because Australia does not allow donors over the age of 81, but the 81-year-old has vowed to continue helping the medical field by donating samples of his DNA for research, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. "Every batch of the life-saving Anti-D that has been made in Australia has come from James' blood. I cry just thinking about it".

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Now, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service ruled that Harrison should end his donations, according to the Sydney Morning Herald report, since he has passed the organization's donor age limit.

A regular blood donation can save three lives, and a plasma donation can save 18 lives. "He doesn't think he's remarkable". Somewhere along the way, he picked up the nickname "The Man With the Golden Arm", along with accolades large and small, from the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1999 to the cover of his local yellow pages in 2013. This included Harrison's own grandchildren, as his daughter Tracey required an Anti-D injection in 1992, shortly after her first of two children was born.

"I'd keep on going if they'd let me".

Blood service officials said their hope is that more blood donors will step forward; perhaps there will be another James Harrison among them.

" I wish it's a document that someone breaks, due to the fact that it will certainly indicate they are devoted to the reason", Mr Harrison stated of his last contribution.

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