James Harrison is known as the Man With the Golden Arm. He was given this nickname for donating blood almost every week for 60 years. The best of us may donate blood every once in a while, or perhaps every month, if we’re truly dedicated. James has almost never missed his weekly appointment, unless absolutely unavoidable.
So one thing is for certain; James lives by a code of commitment to promises that many of us only aspire to. But this incredible achievement only begins to cover what this truly great Australian has given to his fellow citizen. He’s responsible for so many people being alive, and those people get to enjoy all the modern advancements they’d otherwise missed out on, from AI developments, to casino online entertainment and other technological wonders.
His sheer dedication to donating blood already makes James Harrison a hero, but it goes much further than that. The lives of around 2.4 million babies have been saved by his blood. A staggering number, and perhaps the greatest gift James Harrison could have asked for, given that he has finally settled into retirement. At the age of 81, sadly, this great man can finally no longer give blood.
But what is it about his blood that made not only a generous man, but also a unique one?
The Golden Blood Of The Golden Man
James Harrison’s blood is one in a million, rare to the point of being considered priceless. It contains an extremely rare antibody, which is instrumental in creating a formula known as Anti-D. And Anti-D, for those not aware, is key in defending unborn babies from rhesus disease.
Rhesus disease is a profoundly dangerous infliction, resulting in brain damage, and potentially even death for unborn babies. It comes about when a mother has RhD negative blood, otherwise known as rhesus-negative blood, and her unborn child RhD positive blood, or rhesus positive blood.
The result of this conflict is the mother’s blood potentially generating antibodies to defend against the ‘dangerous foreign body.’ Dangerous as incorrectly perceived by her blood. In other words; the mother’s blood perceives the unborn baby’s blood as an infection, and attempts to neutralise it.
As already said, the remedy to the situation is Anti-D. And, if not already made clear, every batch of the lifesaving formula ever made in Australia has come from the blood of this man. Why his blood is so rare is not fully known, but speculation is that it relates to a tragedy James Harrison suffered in his youth.
At the age of 14 James underwent serious surgery, and his life was ultimately saved by blood transfusions. It was the moment that James committed himself to pay back the gift, and donate his own blood. And also the moment, serendipitously, that possibly gave him the rare blood type in the first place.
Life Saving Medication
A few years after James made his first blood donation, doctors discovered the rare anti-bodies. Since then, James has committed himself to give blood as frequently as possible. And, since roughly 17% of women in Australia are at risk of rhesus disease, the impact of his commitment cannot be understated. His own daughter has received a dose of Anti-D, which just about sums up how far reaching the impact of James’s generosity has been.
A Hero Rests
But, the time has come for James to retire. The Anti-D created with his blood will be in circulation for many years still, guaranteeing that he will be fondly remembered even as he settles into a well-deserved rest.
Of course, James has already been granted the Medal of the Order of Australia, one of the country’s highest commendations, and most prestigious honours. Even so, there is little that could be given to James that would equal what he has given to his fellow Australians. A gift he gave for no reward, but gave anyway, almost every week for 60 years.