Because his blood contains rare antibodies, James Harrison, nicknamed “the man with the golden arm,” has donated 1,173 blood in 60 years. A world record.
In 60 years, James Harrison has never missed this regular event. Every two weeks since 1967, this Australian has donated 800 milliliters of blood plasma.
And on Friday, May 11, the octogenarian made his 1,173rd and final donation. It is no longer possible to donate blood after 81 years in Australia.
“The Man with the Golden Arm” is therefore taking a well-deserved retirement and hopes to see his record broken “because it will mean others are dedicated to the cause,” as he said during his last donation.
“3 million doses of drugs manufactured since 1967. “
If James Harrison gave so much blood, it is because it contains a precious ingredient, the only preventive treatment for the hemolytic disease in the newborn.
This antibody, anti-D immunoglobulin, is used to make a medicine for pregnant women whose blood is incompatible with that of their babies.
An injection of anti-D helps prevent the mother’s immune system from developing antibodies to the fetus’s red blood cells.
If nothing is done, the mother will make antibodies that will remain in her body and which could prove to be very dangerous for the unborn child or during a future pregnancy, exposing the child to significant brain damage or even to fatal anemia.
Between 1967 and 2015, donations from James Harrison made it possible to manufacture all of the doses of anti-D used in Australia – more than 3 million. Her daughter received it during her pregnancy.
“Very few people have these antibodies, and they are particularly numerous in James,” explained the Australian Red Cross blood service spokesperson in 2015.
His body produces a lot, and the more he gives his blood, the more his body makes. This makes him an exceptional case ”.
And the need is great, as nearly 17% of pregnant women in Australia need an injection of Anti-D. As a result, the number of child deaths was divided by 100, reaching 0.01 deaths per 1,000 births. In France, 90,000 women are said to be affected each year.
This attraction for the gift, James Harrison, has its history. When he was 14, he underwent major surgery, which required blood transfusions.
This is when the urge to become a donor comes to him, despite the fear of injections. Four years later, as he celebrates his 18th birthday, he begins to donate blood.
But it will take another decade for doctors to discover that it contains a rare antibody needed to manufacture doses of Anti-D.
During the 1990s, he joined the world’s first Anti-D plasma collection program. He has since been joined by 200 donors whose blood has similar benefits.