Aussie James Harrison has donated 1,117 bags of blood, which contains an antibody used to help treat babies with Rhesus disease, a form of anaemia, which affects babies while they're in the womb and can be fatal. Regardless of what the reason is, the publication stressed that Harrison always remained humble during each succeeding blood donation he made. That could be deadly for the baby.
Australian blood donor James Harrison will today make his last blood donation, having helped save the babies of more than two million Australian women. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James' blood.
The condition develops when the infant's mother has rhesus negative blood, and the baby inherits rhesus positive blood from the father. His blood is actually used to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies.
When the mother's Rh- blood mixes with Rh+ blood, the mother's blood starts to develop an immunity to the Rh+ blood cells.
After a few years of donating, doctors were shocked to find that his blood contained an antibody that directly neutralizes rhesus disease: a risky condition in which a pregnant woman's blood attacks her unborn child.
If she is pregnant with an RhD-positive baby, the antibodies can cross the placenta, causing rhesus disease in the unborn baby. This prevents the mother from developing an immunity from the baby's blood.
But the antibodies stick around in a mother's body - and if she becomes pregnant again with another Rh-positive baby, hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN) can occur, according to Stanford Children's Health. He is estimated to have saved the lives of 2.4 million babies in Australia. The terrifying complications of HDN may include anemia, jaundice, heart failure, brain damage, and even death.
Her blood can then cross the placenta and attack the baby's blood cells, thus causing the baby to have a shortage of blood.
In 1999, Harrison received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his ongoing support of the Blood Service and Anti-D program. He vowed to become a blood donor himself and began as soon as he was old enough.
Now that Harrison has given his last blood donation (in Australia you can't donate blood past the age of 81), Falkenmire and others hope people with similar antibodies in their blood will step up and donate.
"I'd keep on going if they'd let me", he told the Herald.