When most of the people retire, they are presented with a gold watch. However, an extraordinary Australian man deserves a lot more than that.
James Harrison has donated his blood, nearly every week, since the past 60 years.
According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Harrison has made nearly 1,100 blood donations throughout his lifetime and has saved the lives of over 2.4 million Australian babies.
Harrison, who is known as the ‘Man with Golden Arms’, retired on Friday after making all those donations and marked the end of a remarkable chapter in his life.
Harrison has a unique blood type, which contains potent antibody which was used to create the Anti-d injection that helps to fight Rhesus D haemolytic Disease (HDN) in unborn babies.
The disease is caused when the blood of the pregnant women starts to attack the blood cells of the unborn baby. In acute cases, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death for the unborn babies.
The illness develops when the pregnant women having Rh negative blood type carries baby having Rh positive blood, which the baby inherits from the father. As her body starts feeling the baby’s blood cells as a ‘foreign threat’, she may then start producing antigens that can be prove to be dangerous for the baby.
Harrison began donating blood after he went through a major chest surgery when he was 14-years-old, said the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. As the blood donations helped save his life, he decided to be a blood donor.
HDN caused the death of thousands of babies in Australia before the researchers discovered Anti-D injection in the 60s. The Australian researchers realised that they could combat HDN by using Anti-D injections, so Harrison switched over to make blood plasma donations to help people.
Doctors are not yet sure of why the 81-year-old has such a rare and unique blood type which develops both the Rh-negative blood and Rh positive antigens, but they think that this might have happened due to the blood transfusions he received when he was 14.