James Harrison’s Blood Saved Millions of Babies in Australia

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James Harrison 81, donor. Photo Tara Delia/Australian Red Cross Blood Service
James Harrison 81, donor. Photo Tara Delia/Australian Red Cross Blood Service

Mega Doctor News

Australian blood donor James Harrison is one of our most impressive and valued donors, having donated for 60 years. On Friday, May 11, 2018 James made his last blood donation, having helped save the babies of more than 2 million Australian women.

The 81-year-old has a precious antibody in his blood that is used to make a lifesaving medication called Anti-D, given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies.

James was a pioneer of our Anti-D program. More than 3 million doses of Anti-D containing James’ blood have been issued to Aussie mothers with a negative blood type since 1967. Dubbed ‘The man with the golden arm’, James donated over 1,100 times.

In 1999, James received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his incredible and ongoing support of the Blood Service and Anti-D program. His kindness leaves a remarkable legacy, and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat it.

“I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause,” James said of his last donation.

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How it all began?

When James was just 14 years old, he underwent major chest surgery and depended on the blood of strangers to save his life. He pledged to donate as soon as he was old enough and four years later, kept his promise. He began by donating whole blood despite an aversion to needles.

Over a decade later, it was discovered that his blood contained an important antibody which was needed to make Anti-D injections. James was happy to continue to donate and switch over to plasma donation in order to help as many people as possible.

What is Anti-D?

Anti-D immunoglobin is an injection that is made up of the plasma from special donors like James. These injections prevent Rh(D) negative women from developing potentially harmful antibodies during pregnancy with a Rh(D) positive baby. Without it, their next Rh(D) positive baby could suffer from Hemolytic Disease of the Fetus and Newborn (HDFN), which can be fatal.