This man's blood has saved 2.4 million babies

This man's blood has saved 2.4 million babies

He made his final donation surrounded by some of the mothers and babies his blood helped save. "In Australia, up until about 1967, there were thousands of babies dying each year, doctors didn't know why", Jemma Falkenmire, of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service, told CNN in 2015. Several parents had shown up at the hospital to mark the occasion - holding some of the babies his donations had helped save.

When he was 14 years old, Harrison underwent major surgery and depended on blood transfusions to save his life.

Soon after donating, he was found to have Rhesus-negative (Rh-) blood and Rhesus-positive (Rh+) antibodies. If their baby has Rh-positive blood, then the mother's body considers the unborn baby a threat, associating it with a virus or a bacteria.

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.

After turning 18, Harrison made good on his word, donating whole blood regularly with the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.

James, who has been nicknamed "the man with the golden arm" is thought to be one of around 50 people in Australia who carry the antibodies. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967.

Harrison can no longer donate blood because Australia does not allow donors over the age of 81, but the 81-year-old has vowed to continue helping the medical field by donating samples of his DNA for research, the Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported. However, an extraordinary Australian man deserves a lot more than that. Now that he's retiring, doctors hope others will come forward with blood containing similar antibodies.

But in interviews, Harrison has said by far the most fulfilling part of his unwavering commitment to donate plasma has been the babies he has helped save - including his own grandchildren.

"That resulted in my second grandson being born healthy", Harrison said. "Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody, so it was quite revolutionary at the time". In acute cases, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death for the unborn babies. He's won numerous awards for his generosity, including the Medal of the Order of Australia, one of the country's most prestigious honors. "It's something I can do". Harrison discovered his blood had unique properties when he had a lung removed, aged 14. "It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor".

"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", she said.