Thanks to a genetic anomaly, this guy has saved more than 2 million lives till now.
Our body and its inner working is a piece of complex art that is joined together with many things and we are still learning about it.
Also sometimes some of us are blessed with something unique that turns out to be live saving for other people. One such person is James Harrison of Australia who has saved more than 2 million lives till now and has given blood and plasma for more than 1100 times in his life.
1 The man- James Harrison
James Harrison of Australia was 14 years old when he got extremely sick. So sick that one of his lungs had to be removed and he was hospitalised for more than 3 months.
He received 13 units of blood or 2 gallons of blood while he was hospitalised and 100 stitches and this made him think that he doesn’t know how many people gave blood to him and he vowed to give back once he was old enough.
Harrison started donating blood once he turned 18 for 11 years, for every three weeks.
2 His unique anomaly
During a check of his blood in 1954, it was found that Harrison’s blood contains a very rare antibody called Rho(D) Immune Globulin that is used to treat Rhesus disease, a severe form of anemia where antibodies in a pregnant woman’s blood destroy her baby’s blood cells.
When he came to know this fact, he vowed to continue donating blood and plasma for as long as he can. Harrison was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 7 June 1999.
3 What is Rhesus disease?
Rh disease which is also known as Rhesus isoimmunisation, Rh (D) disease is one of the prime reasons of haemolytic illness of the new-born. The disease varies from mild to severe, and usually occurs in some second or following pregnancies of Rh negative women where the foetus’s father is Rh positive, leading to a Rh+ pregnancy.
In moderate or severe cases the foetus may have a noticeable anaemia. But when the disease is very severe it may cause stillbirth.
In short, if the mother is Rh negative and the baby is Rh positive, the mother creates antibodies including IgG to fight the Rhesus D antigen on her baby’s red blood cells. This IgC is able to pass through the placenta and into the foetus and if the level of IgC is not adequate, it will elad to development of Rh disease by destroying Rhesus D positive red blood cells in foetus’s red blood cells.
4 How he saves thousands of lives each year and more than 2 million until now?
When the discovery was made about Harrison’s blood, he readily decided to submit to extensive tests and experiments that ultimately led to the development of a vaccine called Anti-D.
Harrison said, “They insured me for a million dollars so I knew my wife Barbara would be taken care of. I wasn’t scared. I was glad to help,” He added that he was enthusiastic to help but some safety measures were taken in case something went wrong with him during the testing procedure.
Harrison has donated a great amount of plasma. Plasma can be given every two to three weeks, unlike whole blood, which should only be given every six weeks. This has enabled Harrison to donate over 1000 times in the 57 years so far.
He reached 1000 donations in 2011 and was feted with a Guinness world record certificate. It has been known that Harrison and his blood and plasma has helped save about 2-2.5 million people so far, including her own daughter Tracey, who had to administered Anti-D injection right after the birth of her son.