Dedicating his life to giving blood, James Harrison, known as the ‘Man with the Golden Arm’ saved millions of newborn babies with his rare blood type.
Many of us donate blood, some even regularly. But one Australian man has shown extraordinary dedication to donating blood, spending half a day every two weeks for the past 60 years for an incredible cause.
James Harrison is known as the “Man with the Golden Arm” for good reason: he’s made nearly 1,200 donations of blood plasma until the age of 81. In turn, James’s donations have helped save the lives of over 2.4 million babies in Australia.
Talk about dedication!
About HDN, Antibodies, & Anti-D
James is so dedicated to giving blood because of a condition called rhesus D hemolytic disease of the fetus and newborn, or HDN. It’s a heartbreaking disease that causes a pregnant mother’s blood antibodies to attack her unborn baby’s blood, possibly causing liver and spleen issues, brain damage, and even death.
He’s one of only 50 known people in Australia with ant-D blood, which is used to make life-saving treatments for HDN, a condition that potentially affects as many as 17% of women in Australia.
Enter Mr. Harrison. His blood contains a substance known as “anti-D”, which is used to create an injection that will fight HDN. Ever since anti-D was discovered as a treatment for HDN, James has dutifully devoted half a day, every two weeks, for almost six decades, to give doctors enough blood plasma to treat millions of unborn Australian babies.
That comes out to nearly two years of his waking life spent giving blood plasma!
James Harrison’s Incredible Longevity
Even more remarkable than James’s life-saving blood is his dedication to continuing his regular donations into his senior years. He’s one of only 50 known people in Australia with ant-D blood, which is used to make life-saving treatments for HDN, a condition that potentially affects as many as 17% of women in Australia. Even James’s own daughter was given an anti-D vaccine created from his blood.
He only stopped because Australian laws prohibit blood donations past the age of 81.
It all started in 1967, when James was the first person to donate his blood for Australia’s national anti-D program, and he’s never missed his twice-a-month appointments ever since. These half-day plasma extraction sessions are draining for anyone, even the young and healthy. For someone James’s age, they can be downright dangerous, which is why Australia’s laws were created to keep older donors safe.
Jame’s Best with Age story is one of incredible compassion and dedication, as he’s given of his time and body no matter what the cost. As his anti-D blood kept saving the lives of Australian babies over the year, his spirit has shone brighter and brighter well past his 80th year.
It’s an inspiration to all of us, no matter what our age.
#BestWithAge A Blog Series About How the Human Spirit Shines Brightest with Time
Criss, D. (2018, May 11) He donated blood every week for 60 years and saved the lives of 2.4 million babies Retrieved from https://www.cnn.com/2018/05/11/health/james-harrison-blood-donor-retires-trnd/index.html
Han, C. (2018, May 15) Man whose blood plasma saved over 2.4 million babies donates for the last time Retrieved from https://abcnews.go.com/International/man-blood-saved-24-million-babies-donates-time/story?id=55170914
Hooton, A. (2017, September 8) Fifty years, two million babies: Australia’s role in a remarkable medical success story Retrieved from https://www.smh.com.au/lifestyle/fifty-years-two-million-babies-australias-role-in-a-remarkable-medical-success-story-20170906-gybtk2.html