Australian blood donor James Harrison has made his last blood donation having helped save the babies of more than two million Australian women
13 May, 2018, 01:15
Vital Signs is a monthly program bringing viewers health stories from around the world. James Harrison deserves so much more than that. His blood has special disease-fighting antibodies which medical professionals have used to develop an injection called AntiD, which combats against rhesus disease. As the blood donations helped save his life, he made a decision to be a blood donor. "The end of a long run", he said as he was making his last blood donation at the Town Hall Donor Centre.
Harrison was the program's first donor. His doctors said it was time to cease the donations - and they certainly don't take them lightly.
"In Australia, up until about 1967, there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why, and it was bad", explains Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. That's a unsafe condition that develops when a woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and has a baby in her womb with RhD positive blood.
It only happens when the mother has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive).
The blood becomes sensitized when the positive RHD blood is exposed to the negative blood and causes the mother's immune system to produce molecules that will fight the infection, called antibodies, that will destroy the cells. It prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy. The 81 year-old blood donor is one of the 50 people in Australia that has his blood type.
Harrison's blood is precious.
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The Australian Red Cross Blood Service announced that Harrison made 1,100 donations in total, which went toward saving the lives of more than 2.4 million infants in need of blood transfusions.
James Harrison has donated his blood, almost every week, since the past 60 years. His blood is actually used to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967.
'Medications like Anti-D are a life-giving intervention for thousands of Australian mums, but they are only available because men like James give blood'. He was even able to donate to help his own daughter, Tracey, to safely have her little boy.
"I'd keep on going if they'd let me", Harrison said. "I didn't think about it any further, and then looking into it a bit more, I found out about James and how awesome he is and how many donations he's made, and that it was all because of him. I cry just thinking about it".
According to CNN, doctors are unsure why Mr Harrison has this rare blood type, but they concluded that it might have been triggered from the transfusions he received while a teenager, after his operation, which saved his life.
Mr Harrison was happy to continue to donate and switched from plain blood to plasma donations in order to help as many people as possible.
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