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James Harrison (blood donor)

James Christopher Harrison (born 27 December 1936), OAM, also known as the Man with the golden arm, is a blood plasma donor[1] 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.[1][2][3]

James Harrison
Born (1936-12-27) 27 December 1936 (age 81)
Known for Blood plasma donation


Early lifeEdit

James Harrison was born on 27 December 1936.[4] At the age of 14, he underwent major chest surgery, requiring 5 litres (1.1 imp gal; 1.3 US gal) of blood.[2] 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 18, the then-required age.[2]

Blood plasma donationsEdit

Harrison started donating in 1954 and after the first few donations it was discovered that his blood contained unusually strong and persistent antibodies against the D Rh group antigen. The discovery of these antibodies led to the development of immune globulin based products to prevent hemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN). These products, which contain a high level of anti-D antibodies are 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 HDN.

Through the donations of his plasma, Harrison has helped prevent thousands of children from dying of HDN. This uniqueness was considered so important, that his life was insured for one million dollars after this discovery[2] and the following research based on his donations created the commercial Anti-D immune globulin commonly known as RhoGAM. His blood plasma derivatives have since been given as treatment to one in ten pregnant women whose blood could potentially become incompatible with that of their children.[2][5]

His donations were estimated to have helped save over 2.4 million babies, with pregnant women, including his own daughter Tracey, being treated with his antibodies.[1][2]

1000 donations recordEdit

As blood plasma, in contrast to blood, can be donated as often as once every 2 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. Commenting on his record, he said:

I could say it's the only record that I hope is broken, because if they do, they have donated a thousand donations.

— James Harrison[1]


In 2007, Harrison was critical of plans to open up Australia's plasma donation to foreign corporations. He believes that opening up the trade will discourage volunteers from donations. This opening of trade stemmed from a review of the country's free trade agreement with the United States.[5]


Harrison was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 7 June 1999.[6] He was nominated for Australian of the Year, though he did not win.[citation needed] In 2011, he was nominated in the New South Wales Local Hero division of the Australian of the Year awards.[4]


  1. ^ a b c d "'Saving Lives'". TEN News. Retrieved 12 January 2013. 
  2. ^ a b c d e f "'Man with the golden arm' saves 2million babies in half a century of donating rare type of blood". Daily Mail. 23 March 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  3. ^ "James Harrison: Australian Man With Special Blood Type Saves 2 Million Babies". The Huffington Post. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010. 
  4. ^ a b "James Harrison OAM". Retrieved 11 June 2014. 
  5. ^ a b "James Harrison: FTA threatens blood donor system". The Australian. Australia. 19 January 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2010. 
  6. ^ It's an Honour - OAM