The Man with the Golden Arm
James Harrison, known as the Man with the golden arm, is a blood plasma donor from Australia whose unusual plasma composition has been used to make a treatment for Rhesus disease. He has made over 1000 donations throughout his lifetime, and these donations are estimated to have saved over two million unborn babies from the condition.
Born in 1936, Harrison underwent major chest surgery at the age of thirteen, requiring 13 litres of blood. He was in the hospital for three months afterwards. Realizing the blood had saved his life, he made a pledge to start donating blood as soon as he turned eighteen, the then-required age. Mr. Harrison started donating in 1954 and after the first few donations it was discovered that his blood contained an unusually strong and persistent antibody called Rho(D) Immune Globulin. Rho(D) IG is given to Rh(D) negative mothers of unknown or Rh(D) positive babies during and after pregnancy to prevent the creation of antibodies to the blood of a Rh(D) positive child. This antigen sensitization and subsequent incompatibility phenomenon causes Rhesus disease, the most common form of hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN).
As blood plasma, in contrast to blood, can be donated as often as every 2–3 weeks, he was able to reach his 1000th donation in May 2011. This results in an average of one donation every three weeks during 57 years.