Most people believe that to change the world, they need to accomplish an amazing feat which will affect millions of people within a small window of time. But, that’s not always the most effective way to make a positive and lasting difference. For example, look to Australian citizen James Harrison.
For the past 60 years, the 81-year-old has been donating his blood to save lives. CNN reports that his blood has unique, disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop an injection called Anti-D. The injection helps fight against rhesus disease, which is where a pregnant’s woman’s blood begins attacking the unborn baby’s blood cells. In a worst case scenario, it may result in brain damage or death for the babies.
Harrison was first inspired to donate blood after undergoing major open heart surgery at the age of 14. Blood donations saved his life, so he pledged to become a blood donor. Several years later, doctors discovered that his blood contains the antibody used to make Anti-D injections. That’s when he switched over to making blood plasma donations every week.
“Every bag of blood is precious, but James’ blood is particularly extraordinary. His blood is actually used to make a life-saving medication, given to moms whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. Every batch of Anti-D that has ever been made in Australia has come from James’ blood.” said Jemma Falkenmire of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. “And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives.”
The good Samaritan, who is oftentimes referred to as the “Man with the Golden Arm” officially retired from weekly blood plasma donations last week. The Australian Red Cross Blood Service estimates that over the past six decades, has helped save more than 2.4 million Australian babies with regular donations.
The greatest perk for Harrison is knowing he helped ensure his grandson was born healthy. His daughter received the Anti-D vaccine, which likely wouldn’t have been possible without his weekly donations. “That resulted in my second grandson being born healthy,” Harrison said. “And that makes you feel good yourself that you saved a life there, and you saved many more and that’s great.
For his generosity, Harrison has been named a national hero in Australia. He was also awarded numerous awards, including the Medal of the Order of Australia — one of the country’s most prestigious honors. “It becomes quite humbling when they say, ‘oh you’ve done this or you’ve done that or you’re a hero,'” Harrison said. “It’s something I can do. It’s one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor.”
Now that the 81-year-old has stepped down from donating weekly, there is a serious need for people with similar antibodies to step up and donate. “All we can do is hope there will be people out there generous enough to do it, and selflessly in the way he’s done,” said Falkenmire.
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