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Australia's "man with the golden arm" retires after rescuing 2.4 million babies



James Harrison, an Australian man whose blood contains a rare antibody that can create a treatment that saves babies' lives, donated plasma one last time.

Harrison, 81, is now over the age limit for donors The fact is that he hit the cap months ago.

But the Australian Red Cross Blood Service let him donate one last time on Friday. The ministry estimates that over the course of his life, he helped save about 2.4 million babies.

Harrison, known as "the man with the golden arm", has been regularly donating blood and plasma for over six decades from ages 1

8 to 81. All in all, he donated 1,172 times – 1,162 from his right arm, 10 from his left says the Sydney Morning Herald

"I hope it's a record breaking someone," Harrison told the Blood Service.

Harrison spoke with NPR in 2015, explaining his long history of donating blood. He had a lung removed when he was 14, in a procedure that required multiple blood transfusions:

"I was in the hospital for three months and had 100 stitches," he recalls.

"After receiving 13 units – nearly 2 gallons – of blood donation, Harrison immediately knew he wanted to return.

" I've always looked forward to donating directly from the operation because I do not know how many People needed it to save my life, "he says. I never met her, did not know her. "

So, when he turned 18, he started donating blood and plasma and kept it upright for years.

Then researchers discovered that his plasma had a property that could save the lives of infants. [19659012] When a woman with Rh-negative blood has a Rh-positive fetus, it is called Rh incompatibility, and her body may develop an immune reaction that attacks her baby's blood cells, and these antibodies pose a risk to future children. [19659013] In the 1960s, scientists then discovered the same antibody – Rho (D) immunoglobulin, also known in Australia as Anti-D – can also be used to create a treatment that saves babies who would otherwise get sick or die

And Harrison, as it happens, has anti-D in his blood, a lot of it.

"Very few people have these antibodies in such high concentrations," said Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Blu Donation service of the Red Cross to the Herald. "His body produces a lot of them, and when he donates, his body produces more."

Harrison was happy to hear that he could help save baby's life. He switched from blood donations to plasma donors as often as service allowed him.

He contributed to treatments for millions of Australian women, including his own daughter.

Today, Researchers Test Methods to Make Antibodies In a lab, donors that produce the antibody are still the only source of anti-D.

Such donors are rare today, at least in developed countries. The antibodies are naturally produced by women with Rh incompatibility. But the same treatment that saves babies prevents mothers from developing this immune response.

To fill this gap, some Rh-negative men agree to be exposed to Rh-positive blood, so they can become donors, either as volunteers or for money.

And a small number of people develop the antibodies after accidentally receiving a wrong blood transfusion.

That's probably happened to Harrison. And he made the most of the mistake by voluntarily donating life-saving plasma for life.

Harrison is one of about 200 people in Australia who are known to make antibodies.

When Harrison spoke to NPR for a few years earlier, he knew that his "retirement" would come soon. He said it was time for other people to get up.

"Some people say, 'Oh, you're a hero,'" he told NPR. "But I'm in a safe room and donate blood."

"They give me a cup of coffee and something to nibble on. And then I just keep going. … no problem, no need.

Copyright NPR 2018.


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