J is for James Harrison, blood donor

Doctors were struggling with cases of a potentially fatal condition called Rh incompatibility

james-harrison-blood_customOn one of those less-than-reliable news feeds that accompany some websites, I found a mention of a “super” blood donor.

It turns out, though, that Australian blood donor James Harrison has saved 2 million babies.

“James Harrison was born on 27 December 1936. At the age of 14, he underwent major chest surgery, requiring 13 litres (3.4 US gallons) of blood. After surgery, he was in the hospital for three months. 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.”

From NPR:
“Doctors were struggling with cases of a potentially fatal condition called Rh incompatibility, also known as rhesus isoimmunization or Rh disease. It occurs when a pregnant woman has an Rh-negative blood type but the fetus she’s carrying is Rh-positive.

“In some pregnant women, Rh disease causes their antibodies to attack the fetus’s red blood cells. Scientists needed a way to turn this reaction off, and in Harrison’s blood, they found it: a rare antibody known as Rh (D) immune globulin or anti-D.

“Doctors believe Harrison has anti-D because of the blood he received at age 14. And so Harrison became the first anti-D donor in Australia — and the most prolific.”

There are many iterations of the story, from CNN to Medical Daily when one Googles James Harrison blood donor.

He, with over 1000 donations of blood plasma, averages one donation every three weeks. He makes my 150 or so donations, mostly whole blood, seem like a piker’s effort.

ABC Wednesday – Round 18

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