James Harrison: the man who has saved the lives of millions of babies?

James Harrison He is a hero, although few people know of the existence of this Autralian over 70 years of age (he was born in 1936). And it is not for having saved a person's life, not even 100 people. It is because it could have saved the lives of millions of people..

James Harrison could perfectly be the male version of the case of Henrietta Lacks: the woman who saved millions of lives after death: the samples taken from the tumor cells of this African American from a humble family, known as HeLa, have served to develop the polio vaccine, make important advances in fields such as cloning, cancer, AIDS, the effects of radiation or toxic substances and they have generated more than 17,000 patents that produce fortunes and almost 60,000 scientific publications worldwide.

Awarded the honorary title of “man with the golden arm” for his extraordinary service to the community, as well as the Order of Australia, James Harrison's body has also generated enormous advantages to the medical community. In this case, their blood is so rare that, their continuous and methodical donations of it, it is estimated that they have saved the lives of more than 2 million babies. With their blood, it is possible to develop a vaccine that is injected into pregnant women (the RHo Immunoglobulin (D), created in 1968), which prevents many children not only stop dying but develop brain damage.

Harrison's blood is rare in the sense that It contains antibodies that serve to combat a severe form of anemia that occurs in children with maternal-fetal incompatibility RhRhesus disease, a hemolytic disease that develops when a pregnant woman has Rh negative blood and the baby in her womb has Rh positive blood.

Harrison has been donating blood for more than 50 years, and estimates he has done it more than 1,000 times. However, for some experts, although Harrison's contribution is remarkable, it is not so extraordinary. For example, the head of the Immunohematology Division of the Blood and Tissue Bank of Catalonia (BSTCAT), the doctor Eduardo Muñiz-Díaz, has pointed out:

It's just Rh negative, nothing more, "he says." This man is just one of thousands of people in the world with Rh negative who are voluntarily immunized to create antibodies in the plasma. Later, the same plasma is used by pharmaceutical companies to manufacture gammaglobulin anti D, or anti D vaccine, which prevents the onset of Rhesus disease in children with an Rh incompatible with that of their mother. (…) Probably the news is that this Australian has been honored for being the oldest donor or the one who has donated the most times, but in no case has he saved only the lives of 2, 2 million children.

Whether or not Harrison's figures exaggerate the press, the truth is that his popularity probably has encouraged other people who share their particular blood type to participate in more donations.