Back in 1951, James Harrison had to be hospitalized for three months and had one of his lungs removed which took several hours. He was only 14 at the time, but Harrison never forgot the experience. During the procedure he lost a lot of blood and basically only survived because of the large quantity of transfused blood he had gotten.
Once Harrison was healthy, he wanted to give blood to give back like people did to save his life. He would have to wait 4 years because in Australia blood donors must be 18 years old.
But when he turned 18, he began his lifelong gift of giving blood to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. He didn’t like needles but he got through the pain to give. He then found out that his blood could be the solution doctors had been looking for. Harrison told CNN:
“In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn’t know why, and it was awful. Women were having numerous miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage.”
The babies were suffering from hemolytic disease of the newborn, or HDN. The disease basically makes the mother and the fetus reject each other’s blood cells. Doctors then figured they could stop the HDN from happening if the mother’s blood was injected with donated plasma from a rare antibody. Guess who the donor was that had that? Yep, James Harrison.
Harrison didn’t think twice when doctors approached him to give even more blood which would later be named the Anti-D Program.
Harrison talked to the Sydney Morning Herald and said:
“They asked me to be a guinea pig, and I’ve been donating ever since.”
Once he began in 1967, he didn’t stop giving blood till just recently. 17 percent of pregnant women in Australia require the Anti-D injections, so if you do the math Harrison has saved the lives of 2.4 million babies.
Robyn Barlow is the program coordinator and she is the one who initially found James Harrison. She said:
“Every ampul of Anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it. He has saved millions of babies. I cry just thinking about it.”
Harrison even saved his daughter through the procedure and she posted on Facebook last month:
“To say I am proud of James (my dad) is an understatement. Thanks to dad I then gave birth to another healthy boy in 1995. … Thank you dad for giving me the chance to have two healthy children — your grandchildren. XXX”
He’s even been on the cover of the Yellowpages in 2013, so Harrison is kinda a bid deal.
Our Central Coast cover star is James Harrison, whose blood donations to @RedCrossAU have saved two million babies! pic.twitter.com/MhMod7W6FD
— White Pages (@Whitepages_au) June 1, 2013
Now 81, doctors are having to stop him because they fear for his health if he continues to give blood. He’s already past the age limit. When asked about his amazing record, he concluded with:
“I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause.”
Cheers to you James Harrison!