Most people retire when they get a gold watch. James Harrison earns so much more than that.
Harrison, known as the "Man with the Golden Arm," donated blood for almost 60 years almost every week. After 1,100 donations, "the 81-year-old Australian retired on Friday, marking the end of a monumental chapter.
According to the Australian Blood Transfusion Service, he has helped save the lives of more than 2.4 million Australian babies.
First, a Comment on Antibodies
Harrison's blood contains unique antibodies to diseases used to develop an injection called Anti-D, which helps fight Rhesus disease.
In this disease, the blood of a pregnant woman begins to attack the unborn child's blood cells, and in the worst case can cause brain damage or death to the baby.
Here is the reason:
The condition develops when a pregnant woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD-negative) and the baby in her womb has inherited rhesus-positive blood (RhD-positive), from his father  If the mother has been sensitized to rhesus-positive blood, usually during a previous pregnancy with a rhesus-positive baby, she may produce antibodies that destroy the baby's "foreign" blood cells. That could be deadly to the baby.
How Harrison made a difference
Harrison's notable gift of giving began when he had a major breast operation at the age of 14, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service said
Blood donations saved his life and so he promised to become a blood donor.
A few years later, doctors discovered that his blood contained the antibody that could be used for anti-D injections, so he switched to blood plasma donations to help as many people as possible.
The doctors are not quite sure why Harrison has this rare blood type, but they think it is due to the transfusions he received at the age of 14 after his surgery. He is one of no more than 50 people in Australia who are known to have the antibodies, says the Blood Service.
"Every blood bag is precious, but James's blood is particularly extraordinary, and his blood is actually used to make a life-saving drug given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies Anti-D, which was ever made in Australia, comes from James' blood, "said Falkenmire. "And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James helped save a lot of lives."
Why His Donations Were a Crucial Change
Anti-D, produced with Harrison antibodies, prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy. More than three million anti-D drugs have been given to Australian mothers with negative blood groups since 1967.
Even Harrison's own daughter received the anti-D vaccine.
"That caused my second grandson to be born healthy," said Harrison. "And that makes you feel good about saving your life there, and you saved much more, and that's great.
The discovery of Harrison's antibodies was an absolute game changer, Australian officials said.
" In Australia Literally thousands of babies died each year until about 1967, doctors did not know why, and it was terrible. Women had numerous miscarriages and babies were born with brain damage, "said Jemma Falkenmire of the Red Cross's Australian Blood Donor Service to CNN in 2015." Australia was one of the first countries where a blood donor was discovered using this antibody was quite revolutionary at the time.
Why He Is A National Hero
According to the Blood Service, that would be more than two million lives, and Harrison is considered a national hero of Australia, having received numerous awards for his generosity, including the Order of Australia, one of the most respected honors in the country.
"It gets pretty humbling when they say, 'Oh, you did that, or you did it, or you're a hero,' said Harrison, 'I can do something do. It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, that I can be a blood donor.
Now that Harrison has given his last blood donation (Australia can not donate blood for more than 81 years), Falkenmire and others hope that people with similar antibodies will ascend and donate in their blood.
what we can do is to hope that there are people who are generous enough to do it selflessly and as they have done, "she said.