James Harrison's story

James Harrison's story

Australian blood donor James Harrison has been one of our most impressive and valued donors, having donated for 60 years. Know his story, how he was a pioneer of our Anti-D program, and why this matters.

On Friday 11 May 2018 James made his last blood donation, having helped save the babies of more than 2 million Australian women.

The 81 year-old has a precious antibody in his blood that is used to make a lifesaving medication called Anti-D, given to mothers whose blood is at risk of attacking their unborn babies. 

James was a pioneer of our Anti-D program. More than 3 million doses of Anti-D containing James’ blood have been issued to Aussie mothers with a negative blood type since 1967. Dubbed 'The man with the golden arm', James donated over 1,100 times.

In 1999, James received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his incredible and ongoing support of the Lifeblood and Anti-D program. His kindness leaves a remarkable legacy, and he has put the challenge out to the Australian community to beat it.

“I hope it’s a record that somebody breaks, because it will mean they are dedicated to the cause,” James said of his last donation.


How it all began

When James was just 14 years old, he underwent major chest surgery and depended on the blood of strangers to save his life. He pledged to donate as soon as he was old enough and four years later, kept his promise. He began by donating blood despite an aversion to needles.

Over a decade later, it was discovered that his blood contained an important antibody which was needed to make Anti-D injections. James was happy to continue to donate and switch over to plasma donation in order to help as many people as possible.


What is Anti-D?

Anti-D immunoglobin is an injection that is made up of the plasma from special donors like James.

These injections prevent Rh(D) negative women from developing potentially harmful antibodies during pregnancy with an Rh(D) positive baby. Without it, their next Rh(D) positive baby could suffer from Haemolytic Disease of the Fetus and Newborn (HDFN), which can be fatal.


How can I get involved?

We always need more donors to be part of Australian Red Cross Lifeblood’s program for collecting anti-D. This is to meet the needs of Australia’s growing population and replace those who can’t donate anymore.

If you're eligible, you can donate plasma as often as every two weeks. Call us on 13 14 95.