Australian man donates blood every week for 60 years, saves 2 mi - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

Australian man donates blood every week for 60 years, saves 2 million babies

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An Australian man who spent most of his life giving blood retired on Friday.

James Harrison has donated blood every week for 60 years. He's made over 1,000 donations in total and, according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, has saved the lives of over 2 million babies.

The Atlanta Journal Constitution reports that in Australia he's known as the “man with the golden arm.” The 81-year-old’s blood is special. It has disease-fighting antibodies that have been used to develop the Anti-D injection, which helps combat Rhesus D Haemolytic Disease, or HDN.

The illness occurs when a pregnant woman’s blood begins attacking her unborn baby’s blood cells, causing brain damage or death for the baby. 

Doctors aren't sure why Harrison's blood contains these antibodies, but once he learned of them, he began donating blood plasma to help more people.

In Australia, people aren't allowed to donate blood past the age of 81, so Harrison has been forced into retirement. He hopes he's led by example and someone else will break his streak of donations.

“I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause,” Harrison said of his last donation.

He says he will continue to help health experts by donating DNA for future research.

“Australia owes a big thank you to James Harrison, Australia became the first country in the world to be self-sufficient in the supply of Anti-D, and cases of HDN are rare,” Australian Red Cross Blood Service spokesperson Jemma Falkenmire said. “We encourage the partners and friends of all new mothers to think about donating blood, just one donation helps ensure someone has the chance to be a mother.”

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