A Man With the Golden Arm: James Harrison Saved 2.4 Million Babies

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An Australian blood donor, James Harrison (born 1936, Australia), donated blood every week for 60 years to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies.

Harrison had major chest surgery when he was just 14. He needed blood donations to save his life and after that experience, he decided to become a blood donor himself.



Later it was discovered that his blood contained the antibody which could be used to create Anti-D injections. He started to make blood plasma donations and every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James’ blood.

Harrison is one of about 50 people in Australia known to have antibodies. More than 17% of women in Australia are at risk. Up until 1967 thousands of babies were dying each year. Women were having miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage.

Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with these antibodies. Anti-D, produced with Harrison’s antibodies, prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy.

Harrison retired in 2018 (in Australia you can’t donate blood past the age of 81).

Read more: Blood Donors in Sweden Get a Text Message Whenever Their Blood Saves Someone’s Life

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