Blood Saved Babies: James Harrison Saved 2 Million Babies With ‘Golden Arm’

A man’s blood saved babies for the past six decades.

According to CNN, James Harrison is known as “the man with the golden arm.” The 78-year-old Australian resident has been donating blood plasma almost every week since he was young. He says that a traumatic life experience that involved him being saved by donated blood from other people inspired him to pay it forward.

“In 1951, I had a chest operation where they removed a lung — and I was 14. When I came out of the operation, or a couple days after, my father was explaining what had happened. He said I had (received) 13 units (liters) of blood and my life had been saved by unknown people. He was a donor himself, so I said when I’m old enough, I’ll become a blood donor.”

Little did Mr. Harrison know that his weekly trip to the blood bank would help so many people.

Harrison’s blood saved babies, particularly, as it was soon learned that his blood could help pregnant women suffering from rhesus disease.

“Rhesus disease happens 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 [a] rhesus-positive baby, she may produce antibodies that destroy the baby’s ‘foreign’ blood cells.”

Harrison had an “unusual antibody” in his blood, and he agreed to work with doctors to develop a vaccine using these antibodies. In the process, doctors estimate that over two million babies’ lives have been saved. According to WHO TV, Harrison is one of only about 50 people in Australia to have these antibodies.

Believe it or not, this isn’t an easy process for Harrison, even after all these years. While he absolutely loves being able to give back in such a way, he does not like having blood taken and, to this day, he still doesn’t look at the needle.

“I look at the ceiling or the nurses, maybe talk to them a bit, but never once have I watched the needle go in my arm. I can’t stand the sight of blood, and I can’t stand pain,” he said.

While everyone’s blood may not help save babies, there is a great need for blood donations. As previously reported by the Inquisitr, a new blood-altering enzyme was recently discovered that could turn everyone into a “universal donor.” That is, everyone’s blood could be made into “Type O.”

[Photo by Christopher Furlong / Getty Images]

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