An Australian man named James Harrison has been called “The Man with the Golden Arm,” and with good reason. The 78-year-old is credited with saving the lives of two million newborn babies, according to reports. How can one person save so many?
The man, who is a real-life superhero to parents, has a rare blood type that contains life-saving antibodies.
Harrison has donated his plasma weekly for the last 60 years since the age of 18, ever since his own father told him how donated blood saved his life. It is estimated that he has given donations more than 1,000 times.
The donated blood is used by doctors to create the Anti-D vaccine. This vaccine is vital for treating Rhesus disease—a condition that occurs in pregnant women.
In women who have the condition, their body does not recognize the unborn child’s blood cells. The mother’s blood rejects and attacks what it perceives as foreign cells, leading to birth complications—including miscarriage and brain damage in the child.
In Australia, the condition was killing thousands of babies every single year, up until doctor’s realized the solution that flowed through Harrison’s veins.
Harrison is Australia’s sole donor of the antibodies needed to treat against the condition, and has literally saved millions of babies’ lives in the country.
He said his own daughter actually needed the vaccine, and that he played a part in ensuring his healthy grandson was health is a great feeling.
But despite being called “irreplaceable” by the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Harrison says he doesn’t consider himself a hero.
Unfortunately, by Australian law Harrison can only donate for another three years—until the age of 81. Until then, Australians must hope that another donor with the same antibodies is found.