Joel Callen

News

Fri, 12 Jun, 2015

This man has saved the lives of 2 million babies

This man has saved the lives of 2 million babies

Nearly every week for the past 60 years, James Harrison has donated blood plasma. Ordinarily, this would be a wonderful gift to have given, but Mr Harrison’s donation is even more special than one might think; James Harrison’s blood has saved the lives of two million babies.

How is that possible? Let’s backtrack a little to 1951 – when Harrison was 14, and had a chest operation involving the removal of one lung. Speaking with CNN, Harrison recalls, “When I came out of the operation, or a couple days after, my father was explaining what had happened. He said I had 13 units of blood and my life had been saved by unknown people, so I said when I’m old enough, I’ll become a blood donor.”

When that time came, doctors called Harrison to inform him that his blood could be the answer to a deadly problem: rhesus disease. At the time, thousands of babies were dying every year because of the condition that causes some pregnant women’s blood cells to attack those of her unborn baby. Harrison had an unusual antibody in his blood, and worked with doctors in the 1960s to develop an injection called Anti-D.

Harrison has now donated his plasma more than 1,000 times, and is credited with saving the lives of over two million babies. He’ll have to retire in the next few years, however, and the Australian Red Cross is hoping more people will step up to fill the gap. “All we can do is hope there will be people out there generous enough to do it, and selflessly in the way he’s done,” said Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

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