James Harisson – Superhero Who Saved Millions of Babies
James Harrison is a real life superhero, but he doesn’t fly or run into burning buildings to save lives, he does something far more simple: he gives blood. A man who has saved millions of babies’ lives in his native Australia is now being recognized for his good deeds worldwide.
On the surface, James Harrison is just an average guy. He loves his daughter and grandchildren, collects stamps, and goes for walks near his home on Australia’s central coast. But it’s what’s under the surface that makes him extraordinary — specifically, what’s flowing in his veins.
Known as “The Man with the Golden Arm,” even though 78-year-old James Harrison hates the sight of blood and has a self-professed low pain tolerance, he has been donating blood nearly every week since he was legally old enough. He was inspired to do so after someone else’s donated blood saved his life during a chest operation when he was 14.
“In 1951, I had a chest operation where they removed a lung — and I was 14,” recalls Harrison, who is now aged 78.
“When I came out of the operation, or a couple days after, my father was explaining what had happened. He said I had (received) 13 units (liters) of blood and my life had been saved by unknown people. He was a donor himself, so I said when I’m old enough, I’ll become a blood donor.”
Once he began donating when he was 18 years old, doctors realized that his blood contained an anti-body capable of treating Rhesus disease. Rhesus disease is a condition where a pregnant woman’s blood actually starts attacking her unborn baby’s blood cells. In the worst cases it can result in brain damage, or death, for the babies. At the time, Rhesus disease was causing deaths and birth defects in tens of thousands of babies worldwide each year.
Harrison’s blood is precious. He and Anti-D are credited with saving the lives of more than 2 million babies, according to the Australian Red Cross blood service: That’s 2 million lives saved by one man’s blood.
“Every bag of blood is precious, but James’ blood is particularly extraordinary,” says Falkenmire. “His blood is actually used to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James’ blood.
James Harrison is considered a national hero, and has won numerous awards. He’s now donated his plasma more than 1,000 times, but no matter how many times he’s given blood there’s one thing that will never change: “Never once have I watched the needle go in my arm,” he says.