This man's blood has saved the lives of two million babies

This man's blood has saved the lives of two million babies

After 1,100 donations, the 81-year-old Australian man "retired" Friday.

"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.

After a few years of donating, doctors were shocked to find that his blood contained an antibody that directly neutralizes rhesus disease: a unsafe condition in which a pregnant woman's blood attacks her unborn child.

Meanwhile, doctors in Australia were struggling to figure out why thousands of births in the country were resulting in miscarriages, stillbirths or brain defects for the babies.

This only occurs when the mother has Rhesus negative blood, RHD, and her fetus has Rhesus positive blood, which it would have inherited from it's father. That could be deadly for the baby.

The affectionate nickname comes from homage to the Australian senior's astonishing blood donor track record and the game-changing effect that his donations have had on his country. The Australian researchers realised that they could combat HDN by using Anti-D injections, so Harrison switched over to make blood plasma donations to help people. He's one of no more than 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies, the blood service says.

At 14, Harrison made a pledge that he would donate blood when he turned 18 after a major chest surgery that required 13-liters (0.26 gal) of blood. The medicine is given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. "Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James' blood".


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

Researchers scoured blood banks to see whose blood might contain this antibody - and found a donor in New South Wales by the name of James Harrison.

More than 3 million doses of Anti-D containing James' blood have been issued to Aussie mothers with a negative blood type since 1967.

But in interviews, Harrison has said by far the most fulfilling part of his unwavering commitment to donate plasma has been the babies he has helped save - including his own grandchildren.

"That resulted in my second grandson being born healthy".

"In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why, and it was very bad", Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, told Gupta. In acute cases, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death for the unborn babies. Scientists are collecting and cataloging his DNA to create a library of antibodies and white blood cells that could be the future of the anti-D program in Australia. In 1999, James was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia for decades-long service. "It's something I can do". It would be four years before Harrison was eligible, but he vowed then that he too would become a blood donor when he was old enough.

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