Thursday, August 14, 2014

World's highest blood Donor

James Harrison, aged 74, is definitely a superhero in his own right. Granted, he doesn’t wear a cape or spin webs, but he has saved over two million babies’ lives in the past 54 years. And in real life, it doesn’t get cooler than that.

James Harrison, was born on 27 December 1936, OAM, also known as the Man with the golden arm, is a blood plasma donor from Australia has a very special type of blood – the plasma contains an antibody that cures babies of Rhesus disease, a severe form of anemia. He has made over 1071 donations throughout his lifetime, and these donations are estimated to have saved over two million unborn babies from the condition.

At the age of 14, he underwent major chest surgery, requiring 13 litres (2.9 imp gal; 3.4 US gal) of blood.After surgery, he was in the hospital for three months. 

Realizing the blood had saved his life, he made a pledge to start donating blood as soon as he turned eighteen, the then-required age. “I’ve never thought about stopping. Never,” he said. I said to my father that I would give blood myself as soon as possible and I stayed true to my word.”  
Every year since turning 18 the Guinness World Records holder has given blood as many times as the World Health Organisation allows.  
He has been donating blood every few weeks since he was 18 years old, and has done it over 1,071 times now. James never fails to make a donation; even when he’s holidaying, he makes sure to stop by a donor center. “I’ve donated on the Sunshine Coast, South Australia, Western Australia, Tasmania, NSW, wherever I go and I get around the place with the caravan club I’m in.”

Harrison started donating in 1954 and after the first few donations it was discovered that his blood contained an unusually strong and persistent antibody called Rho(D) Immune Globulin. Rho(D) IG is given to Rh(D) negative mothers of unknown or Rh(D) positive babies during and after pregnancy to prevent the creation of antibodies to the blood of a Rh(D) positive child. This antigen sensitization and subsequent incompatibility phenomenon causes Rhesus disease, the most common form of hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN).

Through the donations of his plasma, Harrison helped prevent thousands of born and unborn children from dying of HDN. This uniqueness was considered so important, that his life was insured for one million dollars after this discovery and the following research based on his donations created the commercial Anti-D immune globulin commonly known as RhoGAM. His blood plasma derivatives have since been given as treatment to one in ten pregnant women whose blood could potentially become incompatible with that of their children.

Some newborns suffered permanent brain damage. James’ blood became so valuable that his life was insured for AUS $1million. In 1966, he began to donate plasma. “I wasn’t scared. I was glad to help,” said James, who has been dubbed the ‘man with the golden arm’ and the ‘man in two million’. “I had to sign every form going and basically sign my life away.” When the truth about his blood was discovered, he volunteered for a series of tests to help develop the Anti-D vaccine. The vaccine is given to all pregnant women who are Rh-negative.
 
Rh disease creates an incompatibility between the mother’s and unborn baby’s blood. This happens when one has Rh-positive blood and the other, Rh-negative. James’ plasma was discovered to be able to treat the condition, so his blood is given to millions of pregnant women. He himself has Rh-negative blood, and was given injections of Rh-positive.

Joy Barnes, one of the mothers James has helped, has known him for 23 years. She had miscarried twice at four and five months, before receiving the treatment. “Without him I would never have been able to have a healthy baby,” she said. “I don’t know how to thank you enough.”

James’ own daughter, Tracey, has also benefitted from the Anti-D vaccine, shortly after the birth of her first son. She said that she was proud of her dad, especially because he continued to give blood even after the death of her mother. James and Barbara were married for 56 years. “I was back in the hospital giving blood a week after Barbara passed away,” he said. “It was sad but life marches on and we have to continue doing what we do. She’s up there looking down, so I carry on.”
 
Few people carry anti-D - given to about 17 per cent of pregnant women with Rhesus-negative blood types carrying Rhesus-positive babies to prevent stillbirth - in their blood and even fewer are donors.

He was in Australia's first trial to produce anti-D serum in 1967 and his plasma has been used in every batch produced since.

The Commonwealth Serum Laboratory said his donations had helped save up to 2.2 million babies, including his own grandson.

Known by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service as the "man with the golden arm", Mr Harrison has made 1071 donations with his right arm but just 10 with his left.

"I'm not sure what it is, perhaps something to do with being right-handed, I don't seem to feel the needle, while I feel it in the left," he said.

As the Blood Service's unsung hero for a decade, Mr Harrison is a worthy nominee for a Pride of Australia medal in the Community Spirit category.

Despite his remarkable achievements Mr Harrison remains a humble advocate for just "rolling up your sleeve".

"I'm no hero," he said. "The people on the front line, the police, the emergency services, they're the heroes because they're out there doing it. I just catch the train down to Sydney from the Central Coast as often as I can, read a good book, donate and come back."