On the surface, James Harrison is just an average guy.
That's a unsafe condition that develops when a woman has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and has a baby in her womb with RhD positive blood. The terrifying complications of HDN may include anemia, jaundice, heart failure, brain damage, and even death.
Harrison and the Blood Service urged the partners of expectant mothers to donate blood to aid the one in five pregnant women who need some type of life-saving blood service.
Scientists suspect this has something to do with the 13 units of blood transfusions he received after undergoing major chest surgery when he was 14 years old. "It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor".
Harrison, now 81 years old, didn't always know that his blood literally had the power to save lives. As her body starts feeling the baby's blood cells as a "foreign threat", she may then start producing antigens that can be prove to be risky for the baby. Australia became the first country in the world to be self-sufficient in the supply of Anti-D. He's one of no more than 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies, according the Australian Red Cross blood service. The mother's body treats the blood of the fetus as a foreign invader and attacks with antibodies.
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.
Anti-D, produced with Harrison's antibodies, prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy.
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"Every ampule of Anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it". More than three million does of Anti-D have been issued to Australian mothers with negative blood types since 1967.
"And more than 17% of women in Australia are at risk, so James has helped save a lot of lives".
Harrison's blood is valuable because he naturally produces Rh-negative blood, which contains Rh-positive antibodies.
Ms Falkenmire said that up until 1967, 'there were literally thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why and it was very bad.
Harrison draws out the process as he reclines in a chair, squeezing a firm sponge absent-mindedly and enjoying the gaggle of half a dozen Anti-D babies cooing in their mothers arms; families who have come to thank him on his last day.
Harrison is considered a national hero, and has won numerous awards.
Harrison has now passed the Australian Red Cross's donor age limit, but he told the Sydney Herald he'd "keep on going if they'd let me". The Australian researchers realised that they could combat HDN by using Anti-D injections, so Harrison switched over to make blood plasma donations to help people.