The man who saved the lives of 2.4 million babies by donating blood nearly every week for 60 years

Eighty-seven-year-old James Harrison from Australia is also fondly called the "Man with the Golden Arm" for a notable reason. Harrison wanted to give back to the cause that helped save his life as a 14-year-old boy but he never knew he'd end up saving around 2.4 million babies. Harrison's history with blood donation started when he had surgery at 14 and one of his lungs was removed. He was able to live through that surgery in part because of the massive quantities of blood he received from donors. The legal age to donate blood at the time was 18, so he vowed he would also donate blood once he could. As soon as he turned 18, Harrison started donating blood regularly to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

Even though Harrison was quite scared of needles, as per the Washington Post, he would donate blood with an orange stress ball in his hand and eyes shut tightly as the needle was inserted into his arm. Little did he know that he would continue to do that for the next sixty years before the doctors stopped him at 81, the maximum age to donate blood. A decade after Harrison started donating blood, doctors found that his blood had a rare antibody that could be used to create a vaccine that would save the lives of millions of babies. The injection was called Anti-D and was created to protect children from Rhesus disease. If a mother develops this disease during pregnancy, it attacks her baby's red blood cells. "Anti-D immunoglobulin neutralizes any RhD-positive antigens that may have entered the mother's blood during pregnancy," as per the NHS website.

The disease was becoming a leading cause of stillbirths and miscarriages around that time until doctors found that Harrison's blood had the life-saving antibodies necessary to neutralize the blood cells. Harrison was one of the founding donors of the Anti-D program, according to the outlet. “They asked me to be a guinea pig, and I’ve been donating ever since,” the man told the Sydney Morning Herald. He began donating his plasma for the vaccine. Now, plasma could be donated more often than blood, so Harrison started donating more often. Scientists developed a vaccine called Anti-D from Harrison's blood in 1967. The first dose of the vaccine was given to a woman at the Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1967, according to Robyn Barlow, the Rh program coordinator who recruited its first donor, Mr. Harrison.

Since then, Harrison has saved the lives of 2.4 million babies through his plasma, as per the Red Cross. About 17 percent of mothers in Australia need the vaccine and Harrison's plasma is behind all of them. He has helped many mothers have healthy babies through the plasma from his blood, including his daughter who needed the vaccine during both of her pregnancies. His contribution has earned him a Guinness World Record. Even after this remarkable feat, the man is quite humble and doesn't feel that his donations are different than anybody else. He also shared that he would keep donating if he could. However, doctors still don't know the reason why Harrison has the antibody in his blood and believe that it could be because of the blood transfusions he received. Harrison has donated blood a record 1,173 times and hopes that someone will one day surpass his record.

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