Giving blood is a great way to save lives, but one man has dedicated his life to the cause. Now he’s ready to retire.
James Harrison of Australia has donated his blood nearly every week for 60 years. He’s made 1,100 donations, saving the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies, according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
Known as the “Man With the Golden Arm,” the 81-year-old’s blood is special. It has disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop the Anti-D injection, which helps combats rhesus disease.
The illness occurs when a pregnant woman’s blood begins attacking her unborn baby’s blood cells, causing brain damage or even death for the little one.
It develops when the mom has rhesus-negative blood and the infant has rhesus-positive blood, inherited from the father. The different antigens cause the mother’s body to harm the baby.
Although doctors are unsure why Harrison’s blood contains the rare antibody that fights the disease, they believe it’s likely due to a major chest surgery he had that required a blood transfusion.
He was 14 at the time and vowed to become a blood donor after he recovered. And once doctors discovered his blood was one-of-a-kind, he began offering blood plasma donations to help even more people.
Now it’s time for him to retire. Australia doesn’t allow citizens to give past age 81. However, Harrison, who has received numerous awards for his generosity, will continue to help health experts by donating his DNA samples for future research.
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