‘Man With The Golden Arm’ Has Saved 2.4 Million Babies With Rare Genetic Trait
Volunteering should be an act we all factor into our lives in some aspect. Whether we’re out collecting litter left along trails, donating resources to a local animal shelter, or doing on-the-ground work in harm reduction for homeless populations, knowing we’re doing what we can to help those in need is an amazing feeling.
Some people find their volunteering niche and stick with it for their whole lives, setting amazing examples for those who wish to follow in their footsteps.
A Lifetime Spent Looking
Many people walk through life with the idea that they might one day find some sole ‘purpose.’ They’ll encounter something they immediately click with, something that will become all-consuming, be fulfilling, or that will set their course for the rest of their years. Finding this purpose isn’t always easy, and for some it never happens, but for others, it gets brought to them at a very young age.
Also, for some, not only does it chart their course for them, but it also helps their community, meaning they can feel proud of the cause they’ve dedicated themselves to.
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To Save A Life
James Harrison is an 81-year-old Australian man with an incredible legacy, one that has saved countless lives along the way.
His journey to becoming a hero began when he was 14. He faced a terrible illness resulting in one of his lungs needing to be removed, which contributed to his many, many blood transfusions at the time.
“I was in the hospital for three months and I had 100 stitches,” he told NPR in 2015. During the process, he received 13 units of donated blood, almost two gallons’ worth.
He knew right away that he wanted to, in essence, give that blood back. People had been kind enough to donate their blood so he could live, and that’s an opportunity he wanted to provide back to others once he was able.
“I was always looking forward to donating, right from the operation, because I don’t know how many people it took to save my life,” he said. “I never met them, didn’t know them.”
A Shocking Find
As soon as Harrison turned 18, he began donating blood and plasma as often as he could, which meant every three weeks.
It turns out his blood contained an incredible, rare property that would make his donations even more invaluable.
An Rh incompatibility (also known as rhesus isoimmunization or Rh disease) is when a pregnant woman has an Rh-negative blood type, but her baby is Rh-positive. An Rh incompatibility can result in the woman’s antibodies attacking the baby’s red blood cells, a reaction that can be fatal.
Even More Special
Researchers were looking for a way to turn this reaction off or bypass it somehow, and they found their answer in Harrison’s blood.
Harrison carried a very rare antibody called Rh (D) immune globulin, or anti-D, which doctors believe he developed thanks to the blood transfusions he received as a child. Harrison swiftly became the first ever anti-D donor in Australia, a fact that only encouraged his donating habits and reinforced his motivation to continue giving as often as he could.
Both his rare blood type and his donation frequency gave him quite the claim to fame, and he has since been given the title “The Man With The Golden Arm.” It’s believed he’s donated enough blood to save roughly 2.4 million babies, with one of those babies being his own grandson, Scott.
In 2011, when Scott turned 16, he happily followed in his grandfather’s footsteps by donating his first batch of blood alongside Harrison, who was donating his 1000th.
“The whole family are blood donors. And that makes you feel proud, too,” Harrison said.
Aim For The Moon
He also holds a Guinness World Record for the most blood donated by one person. “I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks,” Harrison told the Blood Service.
He regularly donated for over six decades—from ages 18 to 81, as 81 is the cutoff age for blood donations in Australia. He donated a grand total of 1173 times, 1163 from his right arm and 10 from his left.
He’s one of roughly 200 people in Australia who are known to create the antibody, so thankfully, there will still be plenty of supply now that he’s no longer donating.
He’s No Hero
He’s also unbelievably humble about his generosity, believing it to be less of a courageous act and more of a moral duty.
“Some people say, ‘Oh, you’re a hero,’ but I’m in a safe room, donating blood,” he explained. “They give me a cup of coffee and something to nibble on. And then I just go on my way. No problem, no hardship.”
Not only are his achievements beyond commendable, but his outlook is inspiring.
A Simple Part Of Life
Not everyone will have the same opportunity to follow in Harrison’s exact footsteps, of course, as his blood type is rare and not everyone is able to donate blood in the first place. What’s admirable is the way he treated this aspect of his life as just another thing he had to do so he could give back to his community.
If more people looked at volunteer work as an innate part of living rather than an elective one can opt into to feel good about themselves, the world would be a much better, kinder place.
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Dan is a content writer with three years of experience under their belt, having mostly covered viral media but now shifting toward spirituality and astrology. He’s a strong believer in using one’s beliefs as a means of self-improvement and being in touch with whatever messages the universe has to offer.
He can’t wait to share his insights with a[…]