dubbed “the man with the golden arm”.
For six decades an Australian man, James
Harrison has been donating blood plasma every two weeks – and the high
concentration of a certain type of antibody in his blood has saved the lives of
about 2,4 million babies.
told the Sydney Morning Herald the fact he’d saved so many lives
and helped bring so many babies into the world makes him feel really good.
weekend marked his last blood donation, as he’s now become too old to donate
and his own health is now the priority. James’ blood contains high
concentrations of a potent antibody used to make a treatment called Anti-D.
Anti-D is injected into mothers who are at risk of losing their babies to the
Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease (HDN), or Rhesus disease. The disease, in which the
mother’s blood attacks the unborn baby as if it were a foreign body, causes
multiple miscarriages, still births and brain damage or fatal anaemia in newborns.
The same medicine is used on South African women.
Anti-D programme only has 160 donors. Attempts to manufacture the antibodies in
a laboratory have failed.
heard of Anti-D in 1967 when he was told his blood contained and unusually high
concentration of these antibodies. Since then he’s donated blood 1 173
ampule of Anti-D ever made in Australia [up until now] has James in it,” says
Robyn Barlow, who recruited James, the programme’s first donor. She adds that
he’s saved millions of babies and that she “cries just thinking about it”.
parent24.com for more information on Rhesus disease.