Man who saved 2.4 million babies by donating blood 'retires'

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By analyzing data on Australian births, the percentage of the population that got the injections, and the risk of death from HDN, the Australian Red Cross Blood Service has determined that his donations have saved 2.4 million babies, the Sydney Morning Herald explained.

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Harrison's blood is just as extraordinary as his blood donation history. "Every batch of the life-saving Anti-D that has been made in Australia has come from James' blood".

The affectionate nickname comes from homage to the Australian senior's astonishing blood donor track record and the game-changing effect that his donations have had on his country.

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Rhesus disease is a medical condition where the antibodies in a pregnant woman's blood begin attacking the newborn baby's blood cells, according to Britain's National Health Service (NHS). He is one of fewer than 50 people in Australia known to have the antibodies, the blood service said.

His generosity as a continuous donor stems from a brush with death at the age of 14, when he had a chest operation, and committed himself to helping others by giving blood on a regular basis. This could lead stillbirths, hearing impairment, blindness, or brain damage among children. After more than a decade of whole blood donations, his unique antibodies were discovered, and he switched over to donating plasma instead.

Ms Barnes, who miscarried at four and five months before having treatment, said: 'Without him I would never have been able to have a healthy baby'. If the mother's fetus is RhD positive, the antibodies will pass through her placenta which will cause Rhesus disease.

The condition develops when the infant's mother has rhesus negative blood, and the baby inherits rhesus positive blood from the father.

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The woman's body responds to the RhD positive blood by producing antibodies (infection-fighting molecules) that recognise the foreign blood cells and destroy them.

Harrison's blood was RhD negative with RhD positive antibodies. These donors' unique antibodies, when injected into an Rh-negative mother, prevent her body from attacking the Rh-positive baby's cells.

Rhesus disease does not harm the mother, but it can cause the baby to become anaemic and develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).

This disease is now treatable with a medicine called anti-D immunoglobulin.

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