He has been called "The Man with the Golden Arm" but he hasn't
won a football championship in his life. James Harrison is not an athletic
champion but his strength has changed the lives of more than 2 million babies.
After major surgery at the age of 14, when Harrison had to have a lung removed, he required donations of blood to aid in his recovery. He vowed that he would become a blood donor when he was old enough.
The Australian made good on that vow and in the 1960s his dedication to being a blood donor led to a remarkable discovery. His rare blood type has helped save unborn babies from near certain death. Harrison has donated his blood nearly every week for 60 years in order to help pregnant mothers fighting rhesus disease.
This rare affliction causes a pregnant woman's blood to attack her unborn baby's blood cells resulting in brain damage or death. It's the presence of an antibody in his blood that prevents pregnant women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy.
Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor
with this antibody and since then has used his blood to save more than 2
"Every bag of blood is precious, but James' blood is
particularly extraordinary," says Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian
Red Cross Blood Service. "His blood is actually used to make a
lifesaving 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. And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so
James has helped save a lot of lives."