When he was 14, James Harrison needed surgery. And as he would come to find out, he would also need a significant amount of strangers’ blood to survive it.
After he had recovered and as soon as he became an adult, Mr. Harrison felt compelled to pay it forward, he said. For the next 60 years he suppressed his strong distaste for needles — he says he has never watched one go into his arm — and gave blood every few weeks at locations across Australia.
Along the way, medical professionals made a stunning discovery: Mr. Harrison’s blood contained a rare antibody necessary to make a pioneering medication that officials at the Australian Red Cross Blood Service said had helped save more than two million babies from a potentially fatal disease.
They said more than three million doses of Anti-D, as the medication containing Mr. Harrison’s blood is called, have been issued to mothers since 1967.
May 11, 2018
Most people get a gold watch when they retire, but James Harrison deserves so much more. Harrison, known as the “Man With the Golden Arm,” has donated blood every week for 60 years. After 1,100 donations, the 81-year-old Australian man “retired” Friday. According to the Australian Red Cross, he has helped save the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies.
[transcript at link]
Harrison’s blood has unique, disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which helps fight against rhesus disease
This disease is a condition where a pregnant woman’s blood actually starts attacking her unborn baby’s blood cells. In the worst cases, it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies.
The condition develops when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive), inherited from its father.
If the mother has been sensitized to rhesus-positive blood, usually during a previous pregnancy with an rhesus-positive baby, she may produce antibodies that destroy the baby’s “foreign” blood cells. That could be deadly for the baby.
How Harrison made a difference
….a few years later, doctors discovered his blood contained the antibody which could be used to create Anti-D injections, so he switched over to making blood plasma donations to help as many people as possible.
h/t Digital mix guy