Final donation for man whose blood helped save 2.4 million babies

Mr Harrison’s kindness leaves a remarkable legacy and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat

He and Anti-D are credited with saving the lives of more than 2 million babies, according to the Australian Red Cross blood service: That's 2 million lives saved by one man's blood. He's now donated his plasma more than 1,000 times, but no matter how many times he's given blood there's one thing that will never change: "Never once have I watched the needle go in my arm", he says. The occasion marked the end of a monumental chapter.

"In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why, and it was bad", explains Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

About a decade later, doctors discovered that Harrison's blood contained an important antibody needed to make Anti-D immunoglobin, an injection that helps fight against rhesus disease.

Rhesus D Hemolytic disease is described as a condition in which the molecules in a pregnant woman's blood could kill her baby.

Soon after donating, he was found to have Rhesus-negative (Rh-) blood and Rhesus-positive (Rh+) antibodies. That could be deadly for the baby.

Harrison's naturally produced Rh+ antibodies can be used to intercept the baby's Rh+ blood cells from ever coming into contact with the mother's blood.

HDN caused the death of thousands of babies in Australia before the researchers discovered Anti-D injection in the 60s.

Scientists think that this rare blood could be from the time when Mr. Harrison received 13 units of blood transfusion when he was a teenager and had to get a major chest surgery.

Mr Harrison's kindness leaves a remarkable legacy, and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat it.

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James Harrison has extraordinary blood. The medicine is given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies.

"And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives".

Sensitisation happens when a woman with RhD negative blood is exposed to RhD positive blood, usually during a pregnancy with an RhD positive baby. More than three million does of Anti-D have been issued to Australian mothers with negative blood types since 1967. He was even able to donate to help his own daughter, Tracey, to safely have her little boy.

"That resulted in my second grandson being born healthy", Harrison said. So that makes me feel good.

James, who has been nicknamed "the man with the golden arm" is thought to be one of around 50 people in Australia who carry the antibodies.

Ms Falkenmire said that up until 1967, 'there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why and it was terrible.

During pregnancy, some of the baby's blood can cross into the mother's bloodstream.

"It becomes quite humbling when they say, "oh you've done this or you've done that or you're a hero", said Harrison, who was awarded the Order of Australia, the country's highest honour, in 1999. "It's something I can do".

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