The man with the golden arm

Harrison, now 85, is a hero for millions. - Photo by Medium

Harrison, now 85, is a hero for millions. – Photo by Medium

Daphne L

James Harrison is a special medical case who, by chance, found out that he had the potential to save millions of lives—and he did.

In 1951, when Harrison was 14, he went through a major chest surgery. In order for the surgery to be a success, a large amount of blood needed to be donated. This donated blood saved his life, so as soon as he was old enough, he began donating to pay it forward.

After the first few times Harrison donated blood, doctors found out that Harrison’s blood contained antibodies that protected against a disease that newborns can contract called Rhesus disease, a condition in which a pregnant woman’s blood destroys her baby’s blood cells. The unique plasma in Harrison’s blood could prevent the disease, which the babies could die from. This earned him the nickname “the man with the golden arm”.

Approximately 2.4 million babies were saved because of Harrison, who kept donating as often as he could. He reached his 1000th donation in May of 2011. In May 2018, he made his last donation because the Australian policy prohibited blood donors to be over the age of 81. In total, Harrison made 1,173 donations.

In order to save even more lives without having Harrison’s blood, research is being done to create a synthetic mixture of antibodies to prevent Rhesus disease. The project is named “James in a Jar”.

On June 7th, Harrison was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia, having saved millions of lives. He inspired others to donate blood as well, causing major change for the better. Harrison is truly a hero for many people around the world.