NEW SOUTH WALES, AUSTRALIA — An 81-year-old man who made it his life's work to give blood has just made his last donation, ending a 60-year run that helped save millions of little lives.
According to the Australian Red Cross, James Harrison was inspired to donate blood after receiving a lifesaving blood transfusion at age 14. Since age 18, he's given 1,162 donations from his right hand, and ten from his left, earning him the nickname, "the man with the golden arm."
Harrison's blood is special. His plasma contains a unique antibody that protects unborn babies from the deadly Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease, or HDN.
The condition occurs when a pregnant woman with Rh negative blood carries a baby with Rh positive blood. Her body reacts to the incompatibility by producing antibodies to neutralize the baby's red blood cells, resulting in devastating effects, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.
HDN can lead to miscarriages, and has been known to cause heart failure, brain damage, or even death in newborns.
Thankfully, Australian scientists made a breakthrough with Anti-D, a lifesaving medication that uses Harrison's unique to plasma to stop the disease.
As the program's pioneer donor, every ampule of Anti-D produced in Australia contains his blood, which means he's saved over 2.4 million babies.
If he hadn't reached the age limit for donations, the remarkable grandpa says he'd still be carrying on with his work.
He does hope someone else takes up the mantle and surpasses his record very soon.