'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

In 1951, 14-year-old Australian, named James Harrison, woke from significant chest surgery. Doctors had removed one of his lungs and had kept him hospitalized for three entire months. During this hard time, Harrison learned he was alive primarily because of a vast quantity of transfused blood that he had received. He then vowed that he would become a donor himself. As former Australian law required blood donors to be at least 18, the boy had to wait four more years. However, Harrison kept his promise. He has been regularly donating to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service for 60 years. As the organization estimates, Harrison has saved millions of lives.


Soon after he became a donor, doctors told Harrison that his blood might solve a deadly problem. As Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service told CNN:


“In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn’t know why, and it was awful. Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage.”

Now we know the cause of these terrible things was Rhesus disease, a condition that makes a pregnant woman’s blood attack her unborn baby’s blood cells.


The disease occurs when an expecting woman has RhD negative (rhesus-negative blood ), and her baby has RhD positive (rhesus-positive blood), inherited from the father. If the woman has been sensitized to rhesus-positive blood, often during a previous pregnancy with a rhesus-positive baby, she might produce antibodies which destroy the baby’s “foreign” blood cells. The doctors found out that Harrison has a rare antibody in his blood and in the 60’s they worked together extensively, by using it to develop an injection reffered to as Anti-D. This injection prevents mothers with RhD negative from developing RhD antibodies during their pregnancy.


Doctors have no idea why Harrison has this rare blood type. According to their best guess, it may have something to do with the transfusions which he received when he was 14 years old. The blood service also says there are no more than 50 people in Australia that have the antibodies. According to Falkenmire:


“Every bag of blood is precious, but James’ blood is particularly extraordinary <…>. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James’ blood. And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives.” About 2.4 million, to be exact.


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

Australian Red Cross Blood Service


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

Australian Red Cross Blood Service


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

9news


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

Steven Siewert


Now known as “The Man with the Golden Arm,” Harrison has made 1,173 blood plasma donations – 1,163 from his right arm and ten from his left. “It becomes quite humbling when they say, ‘oh you’ve done this, or you’ve done that, or you’re a hero,'” he told CNN. “It’s something I can do. It’s one of my talents, probably my only talent is that I can be a blood donor.”


“They asked me to be a guinea pig, and I’ve been donating ever since,” the hero told the Sydney Morning Herald. “I’d keep on going if they’d let me.”


However, Mr. Harrison has surpassed the donor age limit, and the Blood Service has to protect his health. On May 2018, Mr. Harrison made his last benefaction. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 1999.


'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation

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'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation 'Man With The Golden Arm,' Who Saved The Lives Of 2.4 Million Babies Donating His Blood, Makes His Last Donation Reviewed by Katerina Pap on 1:16 AM Rating: 5

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