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

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

According to Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, more than 17% of Australian women are at risk of developing the condition.

James has just given his blood from his "golden arm" for the last time but the bittersweet moment is nothing short of a memorable for him.

Aussie James Harrison has donated 1,117 bags of blood, which contains an antibody used to help treat babies with Rhesus disease, a form of anaemia, which affects babies while they're in the womb and can be fatal.

Rhesus disease is a medical condition where the antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood begin attacking the newborn baby's blood cells, according to Britain's National Health Service (NHS). In acute cases, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death for the unborn babies.

This only occurs when the mother has Rhesus negative blood, RHD, and her fetus has Rhesus positive blood, which it would have inherited from it's father.

Doctors still aren't exactly sure why Harrison has this rare blood type but they think it might be from the transfusions he received when he was 14, after his lung surgery.

A regular blood donation can save three lives, and a plasma donation can save 18 lives.


"Every batch of the life-saving Anti-D that has been made in Australia has come from James' blood". 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 risky for the baby. Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody, so it was revolutionary at the time. He's one of no more than 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies, the blood service says. The medicine is given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. "The end of a long run", Harrison says as his blood flows from the crook of his right arm to the plasmapheresis machine at the Town Hall Donor Centre.

"I'd keep going if they let me", Harrison told the Herald. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967. It's made from the plasma of donors like Harrison.

'Medications like Anti-D are a life-giving intervention for thousands of Australian mums, but they are only available because men like James give blood'. His mother, Kristy Pastor, first received the Anti-D injection during her second pregnancy.

Harrison's blood is valuable because he naturally produces Rh-negative blood, which contains Rh-positive antibodies.

In an interview with the news channel several years ago, he said that despite donating, he had not witnessed the process: 'Never once have I watched the needle go in my arm'.

The woman's body responds to the RhD positive blood by producing antibodies (infection-fighting molecules) that recognise the foreign blood cells and destroy them. "I can't stand the sight of blood, and I can't stand pain".

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