AWESOME EFFORT: James Harrison has been donating plasma nearly every week for the past 60 years. He made his 1109th donation last week in Maroochydore.
AWESOME EFFORT: James Harrison has been donating plasma nearly every week for the past 60 years. He made his 1109th donation last week in Maroochydore. Patrick Woods

Rare one saves millions with special blood

JAMES Harrison has helped save the lives of more than two million babies, including his own grandson.

The 78-year-old man has been dubbed the man with the golden arm as he is one of only 39 Anti-D donors in Queensland and about 200 nationwide.

For the past 60 years, Mr Harrison has been donating plasma nearly every week.

He will made his 1109th donation last week in Maroochydore.

The Umina Beach resident has holidayed on the Sunshine Coast three months a year for the past 18 years.

He stays at the Maroochydore Beach Holiday Park and continues to donate plasma at the local blood bank during his vacation time.

Any blood donation is valuable, but Mr Harrison's blood is particularly special as it contains rare antibodies needed to make Anti-D, which is used to prevent Rhesus disease.

It is thought Mr Harrison developed the antibodies when given a blood transfusion during a lung operation in 1951.

"My father was a blood donor and I made him a pledge that I would become one too when I was old enough," Mr Harrison said.

True to his word, he made his first donation three years later, but it was not until a decade later that Anti-D antibodies were discovered in his blood.

Every batch of Anti-D made in Australia contains some of Mr Harrison's blood.

According to the Blood Service, he holds the Australian record for most blood and blood plasma donated.

He said he was able to donate 32 times a year and would continue to roll up his sleeve until he was no longer allowed to donate after the age of 80.

"It is something that you can do that doesn't cost you anything," he said.

Antibodies from Mr Harrison's blood are used for injections given to pregnant women who have negative blood types that may be incompatible with their babies' blood.

About 17% of all pregnant women in Australia will need Anti-D and without the antibody injections, their babies are at risk of developing haemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN), which can lead to anaemia, heart failure, brain damage and in some cases death.



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