James Harrison gave his last blood donation on Friday. Surrounded by a group of young Australian mothers and their babies, the 81-year-old made the last of many donations at the Red Cross blood center in Sydney's City Hall – 63 years after his first.
When the nurse took the blood off his "Golden Arm", four numerical silver balloons could be seen behind him, giving the number "1,173" – the total number of blood plasma donations he has made.
"I hope it's a record someone breaks, Harrison."
This plasma was made into a life-saving anti-D immunoglobulin drug given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking and unborn babies sometimes kills too
What makes Harrison special? 's peculiarity of blood is that it produces consistently high levels of antibody. valuable for the production of anti-D injections.
The donations have helped more than two million Australian mothers safely deliver their babies, according to the Red Cross
I'm here to thank J. Ames, "says Beth Ismay, a 33-year-old mother of two, with her seven-week-old daughter Layla in the center.
"I received four anti-D injections while I was pregnant with Layla, and I know that his blood donation has played a major role in helping my daughter to escape," she told dpa describing Harrison as " a miracle man ".
She has a negative blood type while her partner and Layla both have positive blood type.
"Layla would have been in danger, I would have been in danger of having a miscarriage if it were not his plasma," says Ismay.
Ismay had also received anti-D injections during the birth of her first child, which is now "four and a half and healthy and thriving."
Harrison's inspiration to donate came from his own health difficulties as 1
It prompted him to donate blood when he was 18 years old in 1954, long before health workers discovered the rare combination of Rh-negative blood and anti-D antibodies in his blood.
Robyn Barlow, coordinator of the Rh program, the world's first donor program for anti-D, recruited Harrison in 1966 as the program's first donor.
"James was already a donor, so it was easy, we said it would mean raising antibodies by giving more Rh-positive blood to boost the antibodies, he said, okay and we started" Barlow said.
"It's amazing, healing is so easy, and 50 years later, we still rely on people like James to produce anti-D, it has never changed, we have not found alternative ways to prevent the disease." said Barlow, who says finding other donors like Harrison is a struggle.
Harrison donated 500 to 800 milliliters of blood plasma every two weeks and skipped sessions only when he was traveling somewhere without a donation center
"It's the end of an era I've been donating for 63 years, I just have to find something else on Fridays "said Harrison, who can not donate because of a retirement plan.
"I would have continued if they had allowed me, if I change the system, I'm just a phone call away," he says.
Around 17 percent of all pregnant women need anti-D shots in Australia, says the Red Cross, even Harrison's own daughter among them
"The mothers are Rh-negative and carry a Rh-positive baby because of their positive blood father ", explains Sue Ismay, the scientific director of the blood transfusion service of the Red Cross.
Mother's Immunity The system detects the baby's red blood cells as a foreign threat and produces antibodies to destroy them, possibly resulting in stillbirth or miscarriage, according to Ismay.
Before the Breakthrough Anti-D Discovery in the 1960s, hemolytic disease of the newborn killed thousands of babies in Australia each year.
Since 1967, more than three million doses of anti-D have been issued with some of Harrison's plasma antibodies in all of them.
Currently, there are only about 165 such donors and trying to create a synthetic anti-D has not been successful
"Australia owes James Harrison a big thank you," the Red Cross said in a statement. "Medications like Anti-D are a life-giving intervention for thousands of Australian mothers, but they're only available because men like James donate blood."