July 18, 2018

Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

13 May 2018, 05:37 | Silvia Roy

Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

But just because Harrison has retired from giving blood doesn't mean he's completely out of the game. He loves his daughter and grandchildren, collects stamps, and goes for walks near his home on Australia's central coast.

At the age of 14, James Harrison underwent major chest surgery and he required 13 units (3.4 gallons) of blood afterwards.

He made his final donation surrounded by some of the mothers and babies his blood helped save. 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.

Harrison was the program's first donor. His blood, they said, could be the answer to a deadly problem.

According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, he has helped saved the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies. "Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage".

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.

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The blood becomes sensitized when the positive RHD blood is exposed to the negative blood and causes the mother's immune system to produce molecules that will fight the infection, called antibodies, that will destroy the cells.

The antibody is used to make a lifesaving medication, Anti-D, as it is given to pregnant mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking and killing their unborn babies.

The Anti-D injections work by preventing the woman's body from developing potentially harmful antibodies during pregnancy that could affect her next pregnancy.

Harrison's blood is precious.

According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Harrison has made almost 1,100 blood donations throughout his lifetime and has saved the lives of over 2.4 million Australian babies.

Harrison, now 81 years old, didn't always know that his blood literally had the power to save lives. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967.

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"And more than 17 percent 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. James Harrison deserves so much more than that.

"I'm grateful and I think James is really selfless to continue to donate, so that we can keep having this vaccine".

According to CNN, doctors are unsure why Mr Harrison has this rare blood type, but they concluded that it might have been triggered from the transfusions he received while a teenager, after his operation, which saved his life.

Blood service officials said their hope is that more blood donors will step forward; perhaps there will be another James Harrison among them.

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