He's been called “The Man with the Golden Arm” for a very good reason.
For nearly 60 years, James Harrison has been donating blood once a week, resulting in over 1,100 donations. His blood is so precious that in his native Australia he’s come to be known as “The Man with the Golden Arm.” Harrison’s blood carries a very rare antibody that is used to create a vaccine for Rhesus disease, a condition affecting up to 17% of pregnant women in Australia.
Before a Rhesus vaccine was created from Harrison’s blood in 1967, thousands of babies died every year. Rhesus is a condition where antibodies in a pregnant woman’s blood destroy her baby’s blood cells. This devastating disease caused women to miscarry and for babies to be born with brain damage. According to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, Harrison’s blood has saved the lives of over two-million babies. And Harrison doesn’t even like needles.
[quote position="full" is_quote="true"]Never once have I watched them put a needle in my arm. I can't stand the sight of blood, I can't stand pain.[/quote]
Scientists are unsure why Harrison’s blood carries this precious antibody, but he believes it stems from a blood transfusion he had when he was 14. This life-saving 13-liter transfusion he received during an 11-hour surgery for a heart condition saved his life. This experience started him down the path of donating his own blood as a way of paying the good deed forward. Today, James is 78-years-old, while the legal age limit for blood donations in Australia is 81. That leaves Harrison with about 150 donations left to go.