James Harrison: The Man With the Golden Arm Whose Blood Donations Saved Countless Young Lives

James harrison.

James Harrison's blood donations have saved the lives of more than 2.4 million babies. (Image: via 9News)

An astonishing and uplifting story unfolded in the life of James Harrison. Learning about him will show you that the world is not lacking genuine heroes. Because of this man’s kindness and commitment to donating blood for many years, millions of children at risk of serious diseases were born healthy.

His contributions to his country are undeniable. Read on if you’re interested in learning about the surprising discovery that helped James Harrison save the lives of almost 2 million infants throughout the years.

Subscribe to our Newsletter!

Receive selected content straight into your inbox.

Who Is James Harrison?

Australian blood plasma donor James Christopher Harrison, born on December 27, 1936, is widely recognized as the man with the golden arm. His plasma was used to develop a treatment for rhesus disease due to his blood’s unique composition. 

He gave over a thousand times in his lifetime, and it is estimated that his efforts and dedication prevented the disease in over 2.4 million babies. Unfortunately, his 1,173rd donation was his last on May 11, 2018, as Australian law no longer allows blood donations from people above 81.

Why did Harrison decide to start donating blood?

James Harrison, a young Australian, woke up from a painful chest surgery in 1951. At that time, he was just 14 years old. The surgical procedure to remove his lung lasted many hours, resulting in his hospitalization for another three months.

He remained well after receiving 13 liters of blood from unknown donors. It required three months for him to recover from his hospitalization. After learning that blood transfusions had saved his life, he was naturally grateful to the unidentified donors. He promised to start donating blood immediately when he turned 18.

The rare antibody in the blood of James Harrison makes it a highly demanded type among parents with newborns.
James Harrison’s rare antibody in his blood makes it a highly demanded type among parents with newborns. (Image: via 9News)

How Harrison’s reputation began

James Harrison was scared of needles. But the vow he’d made was more important than his fears. So when Harrison turned 18, he kept his promise and started donating his blood. He started giving blood regularly every three weeks, but he insisted that he could never glance at his arm while the needle was in it. 

After a decade, Harrison’s charitable contributions were still ongoing. On the other hand, one day, a team of professionals unexpectedly contacted him. They informed him they had found an extremely rare immunoglobulin in his blood. Because of this, they requested consent from Harrison to sample his blood. 

In recognition of the significance of the antibody found in James Harrison’s blood, one million dollars was allocated as his life insurance. No one can explain why his body is making immunoglobin. James Harrison credited this to his blood transfusions when he was fourteen.

Through donating his unique blood, a medication that can eliminate potentially fatal conditions in newborns was developed, saving the lives of over 2 million babies. For this reason, he became known as “the man with a golden arm.” But what makes this man’s blood so unique, and how can this medication from his blood prevent babies’ death? 

Why his blood gave hope to babies

Anti-D immunoglobin, or Rh immunoglobulin, is a medication created from Harrison’s blood. Pregnant women at risk for Rh immunoglobin incompatibility may experience complications. The common cause of rhesus disease in children and this condition has serious side effects, including anemia and sometimes even abnormalities. Also, if not treated, it can be fatal in extreme circumstances.

The plasma in James Harrison’s blood contains a high concentration of immunoglobulin, which professionals can use to treat the condition. The medication can eliminate risks to the baby by isolating immunoglobin from his blood and giving the mother an injection while she still carries the child.

Due to his useful blood type, the 81-year-old has donated blood every fortnight for 61 years.
Due to his useful blood type, the 81-year-old has donated blood every fortnight for 61 years. (Image: via 9News)

He turned his fear into a remarkable change

James Harrison’s journey to national heroism demonstrates that, contrary to what is shown in most stories and films, a hero can be an ordinary person doing remarkable things that make a difference. For example, he has prioritized saving babies’ lives by donating blood every three weeks for 57 years.

James Harrison never thought twice about showing his wonderful gesture of charity. Hopefully, Harrison’s story will inspire many people to do the same through his generosity.

Follow us on TwitterFacebook, or Pinterest

Recommended Stories

Doomed star in the Milky Way.

Doomed Star in Milky Way Threatens Rare Gamma-Ray Burst

University of Sydney astronomers, working with international colleagues, have found a star system like none ...

Hong Kong demonstrators holding a large banner.

The Most Memorable Moments Amid Hong Kong Protests (Part 2)

As Hong Kong’s anti-extradition demonstrations persist, more unforgettable moments continue to emerge. We shared the ...

China Cables.

Leaked Chinese Prison Camp Documents Show How Uyghurs Are Brainwashed

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists (ICIJ) recently published a series of leaked Chinese documents ...

Strawberries with mold growing on them.

Safe Consumption of Moldy Food: Separating Myths From Facts

Have you ever questioned the age-old advice to chuck out any food with even a ...

A man arriving late to a meeting.

9 Work Habits to Be Successful

A person’s success happens for a reason. If you want to be successful in the ...

Young woman with a sad expression as she looks at the screen of her phone.

How to Let Go of Regrets and Embrace a Happier Life

You’ve all been there — you did something horrible you regret doing or let go ...

GOES-18 image of Hunga Tonga Volcano. (Image: NOAA)

The Tonga Volcano Eruption Caused a ‘Superbubble’ in Earth’s Ionosphere, Disrupting Satellite Navigation

With technology increasingly embedded in our everyday lives, it is becoming more important to understand ...

AI imitating the 'Creation of Adam.'

AI and Art: Deciphering Copyright Ownership of AI-Generated Images

With artificial intelligence (AI) carving its niche in every sphere of life, including arts and ...

Boy's bedroom with stylish furniture.

7 Ways to Encourage Children to Clean Their Rooms

Many parents, particularly mothers, can relate to the exasperating sight of their children’s disorganized rooms, ...

Send this to a friend