An Australian man credited with saving the lives of over 2.4 million babies with his blood plasma made his final donation Friday, according to the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
James Harrison, nicknamed “the man with the golden arm,” has a rare antibody in his blood that is used to make a lifesaving medication called anti-D, given to mothers whose blood is at risk of developing rhesus D hemolytic disease (HDN), or antibodies that attack their unborn babies.
“It’s a sad day for me. The end of a long run,” Harrison, 81, told The Sydney Morning Herald on the day of his last donation. “I'd keep on going if they'd let me.”
Harrison has surpassed the donor age limit.
Harrison has donated blood plasma over 1,100 times through the Australian Red Cross Anti-D program. Plasma is the component of blood that contains the cells and platelets.
“More than 3 million doses of Anti-D containing James’ blood have been issued to Aussie mothers with a negative blood type,” the Red Cross said.
Harrison was the first donor in a national Anti-D program that started in 1967. Prior to the creation of the program, HDN killed thousands of babies every year.
Harrison made the decision to donate after he underwent major chest surgery and depended on blood donations to save his life, according to the Red Cross.
All of Australia’s anti-D plasma comes from a small pool of 200 donors, but 17 percent of Australian women who become pregnant need the injections to keep their babies healthy, according to the Red Cross.