Health

True Hero: Man Saves 2 Million Babies with His Blood

| by Mark Berman Opposing Views

The term "lifesaver" is tossed around casually these days -- do a simple favor for someone, and they tell you you're a lifesaver. But an Australian man is truly a lifesaver. He has saved the lives of more than two million babies, all because he shares his blood with them.

James Harrison, 74, has a rare antibody in his plasma that stops babies dying from Rhesus disease, a form of severe anemia. He's been donating blood for 56 years -- nearly a thousand donations.

This all began when Harrison, nicknamed "the man with the golden arm," was just 14 years old. He underwent major chest surgery and needed 13 liters of blood. He saw how important donated blood could be, and vowed to return tjhe favor. When he was 18 and allowed to donate, doctors found the treasured antibody in his blood.

Before Harrison came along, thousands of babies in Australia were dying each year of Rhesus disease. Other newborns suffered permanent brain damage because of the condition. The disease creates an incompatibility between the mother's blood and her unborn baby's blood. It stems from one having Rh-positive blood and the other Rh-negative.

After his blood type was discovered, Harrison volunteered to undergo a series of tests to help develop a vaccine, called Anti-D. Harrison is Rh-negative, and was given injections of Rh-positive blood. It was found his plasma could treat the condition.

"I wasn't scared. I was glad to help. I had to sign every form going and basically sign my life away," he said. "They insured me for a million dollars so I knew my wife Barbara would be taken care of."

The vaccine has been given to an estimated 2.2 million babies after they were born to stop them developing the disease. It's also been given to hundreds of thousands of women, including his own daughter, Tracey, who had a healthy son thanks to her father's blood.

Tracey, said she was "proud" of her dad for continuing to give blood, even after the death of her mother after 56 years of marriage.

Harrison said, "I was back in hospital giving blood a week after Barbara passed away. It was sad but life marches on and we have to continue doing what we do. She's up there looking down, so I carry on."