After Surgery At 13 Years Old, He Made A Pledge. It Saved Over 2 Million Lives
September 16, 2014
77 year-old James Harrison of Australia, also known as the "man with the golden arm", is a superhero in his own right. Over the course of 57 years, he has saved the lives of over 2.2 million babies.
At the age of 14, Harrison underwent major chest surgery, requiring over 3 gallons of blood. Realizing the blood had saved his life, he made a pledge to start donating blood as soon as he turned 18 (the required age at the time).
Harrison started donating in 1954, and after the first few donations, it was discovered that his blood contained an unusually strong and persistent antibody which cured Rhesus disease, the most common form of hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN). This uniqueness was considered so important, that his life was insured for $1 million after this discovery.
Rhesus disease creates an incompatibility between the mother's and unborn baby's blood. This happens when one has Rh-positive blood and the other, Rh-negative. James' plasma was discovered to be able to treat the condition, so his blood is given to millions of pregnant women. He himself has Rh-negative blood, and was given injections of Rh-positive.
In 2011, Harrison reached a blood donation record of 1,000. That is one donation every 3 weeks, and he never misses an opportunity. Even on vacation, he makes sure to stop by a donor center.
"I've donated on the Sunshine Coast, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, NSW, wherever I go and I get around the place with the caravan club I'm in," said Harrison.
"More and more blood is needed every day, so if every current donor brought along one friend we wouldn't have the sort of shortage we have at the moment," he said. "An hour of your time is a lifetime for someone else."
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