An Australian man with an extremely rare blood type has saved the lives of more than 2 million babies, including his own grandson, in his 56 years of blood donations, according to a published report.
James Harrison, 74, has made 984 blood donations that contain an antibody that stops babies from dying from Rhesus disease, a severe form of anemia, the Daily Mail reported.
When Harrison began donating, his blood was so valuable that his life was insured for $1 million Australian.
At age 14, Harrison underwent a chest surgery that required nearly 14 quarts of blood from a blood bank. Receiving that blood is what made him decide to donate as much as he could.
“I was in hospital for three months,' Harrison said. 'The blood I received saved my life so I made a pledge to give blood when I was 18.”
After his first few donations, it was discovered that his blood contained the life-saving antibody, and Harrison was nicknamed “the man with the golden arm.” He volunteered to be thoroughly researched and tested, which led to the development of the Anti-D vaccine.
“I wasn't scared. I was glad to help. I had to sign every form going and basically sign my life away,” Harrison said.
Before the Anti-D vaccine, Rhesus disease was the cause of death for thousands of babies in Australia, as well as permanent brain damage.
Rhesus causes blood incompatibility between an unborn child and mother. The antibodies in Harrison’s blood plasma treat the condition, even in babies after they are born to prevent Rhesus.
Currently, Harrison has helped save more than 2.2 million babies, and hundreds of thousands of women have been treated with his antibodies.
His daughter, Tracy needed the Anti-D vaccine following the birth of her first son.
In September of this year, Harrison is expected to reach 1,000 blood donations.
“I've never thought about stopping,” Harrison said.