A man from Australia has just retired from donating blood after saving the lives of about 2.4 million babies. Nicknamed the man with the golden arm, James Harrison has been giving blood once every week or every two weeks for almost 60 years. He is 81 years old now and thought it was time to stop, but he couldn’t contain his immense sadness as he donated his last drop of blood.
The man with the golden arm had an interesting blood condition
James Harrison admits to having been extremely afraid of needles until he made his first donation and saved his first life. This happened in the 1960s, when some doctors made an interesting discovery regarding his blood. They found out his blood type could prevent a dangerous condition spread among babies.
The condition in question is called hemolytic disease and can turn regular anemia into a fatal disease. Interestingly enough, Harrison’s blood contained an antibody that issued a protective effect on babies who suffered from this condition. This is how he turned into the man with the golden arm.
He contributed to the development of the Anti-D medication
Throughout these almost 60 years, Harrison donated blood 1,173 times. 1,163 of the donations came from his right arm, while only 10 came from his left. This way, doctors could use the antibody in his blood to produce a special medication called Anti-D.
Whenever a mother with an Rh negative blood has a baby with Rh positive, a strange reaction occurs. The mother’s blood regards the baby’s blood as a threat, so it tries to get rid of it. This is how the hemolytic disease appears. However, Harrison has Rh positive antibodies in his Rh negative blood, which can become really helpful for the babies.
After thousands of successful donations and millions of lives saved, the time has come for the man with the golden arm to retire. He is extremely sad this is happening and said he would have continued donating if doctors had allowed him.
Image source: Buckley Air Force Base