The man who saved millions of lives through his blood has given his last donation.
James Harrison donated blood for 60 years, and unlike other donors, his contains a precious antibody used in making an important, life-saving medication called Anti-D. The drug is given to pregnant women whose blood is at risk of attacking their child in the womb, CBS News reports.
Harrison, fondly called the “man with the golden arm,” helped save the babies of more than two million women, according to the Australian Red Cross. The 81-year-old donated blood over 1,100 times. On Friday, Harrison made his final donation, as he reached the maximum allowable age for donors in Australia.
I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause.
When Harrison was 14 years old, he had to have major surgery and depended on blood transfusions to live. He disliked needles, but promised to donate as soon as he was old enough to do so. Four years later, he kept that promise.
Around 10 years later, doctors found that Harrison’s blood contained an antibody necessary to create an Anti-D immunoglobin, which helps fight against rhesus disease. This is a dangerous condition that develops when a woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and is carrying a child in her womb with RhD positive blood.
The drug works as an injection that prevents a pregnant woman’s body from developing possibly harmful antibodies that could negatively affect her next baby. Without the medication, the next baby could contract hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn, known as HDN or HDFN, which can be deadly.
Harrison received the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1999 for his continuous support of the Blood Service and Anti-D program.
The Australian Red Cross said, “His kindness leaves a remarkable legacy.”