Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

Mr Harrison’s kindness leaves a remarkable legacy and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat

It's not just the high number of donations that makes Harrison's story so noteworthy. But it's what's under the surface that makes him extraordinary - specifically, what's flowing in his veins.

"I'd keep on going if they'd let me".

Now, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service ruled that Harrison should end his donations, according to the Sydney Morning Herald report, since he has passed the organization's donor age limit. "It's one of my talents, probably my only talent, is that I can be a blood donor".

Harrison was the program's first donor. His blood, they said, could be the answer to a deadly problem.

The Australian Red Cross Blood Service announced that Harrison made 1,100 donations in total, which went toward saving the lives of more than 2.4 million infants in need of blood transfusions. This could lead stillbirths, hearing impairment, blindness or brain damage among children.

It only happens when the mother has rhesus-negative blood (RhD negative) and the baby in her womb has rhesus-positive blood (RhD positive).

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The blood becomes sensitized when the positive RHD blood is exposed to the negative blood and causes the mother's immune system to produce molecules that will fight the infection, called antibodies, that will destroy the cells. It prevents women with rhesus-negative blood from developing RhD antibodies during pregnancy. Australia became the first country in the world to be self-sufficient in the supply of Anti-D.

Harrison's blood is precious. James Harrison's blood has helped save the lives of more than two million babies.

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. The mother's body treats the blood of the fetus as a foreign invader and attacks with antibodies. His blood has been used to create anti-D in Australia since 1967.

Since 1976, Harrison's blood has been used in more than 3 million injections given to Rh-negative Australian women, the organization says.

In Australia, 17% of the pregnant women have received Anti-D, and even Mr. Harrison's daughter got it.

Mr Harrison is one of about 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies.

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Doctors aren't exactly sure why Harrison has this rare blood type, but they think it might be from the transfusions he received when he was 14, after his surgery.

Mr Harrison's kindness leaves a remarkable legacy, and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat it.

"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.

"His body produces a lot of them and when he donates his body produces more".

Harrison is considered a national hero, and has won numerous awards.

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