When you think of a hero, you often think of a soldier in the military, a police officer, a firefighter, and even a teacher. A man named James Harrison from Australia is a hero in his own right. In fact, he has saved millions of lives over the course of his life. He earned the nickname, The Golden Arm, and there is a beautiful story behind it. The man saves millions of lives using an extraordinary ‘power’ few other people have.
In the ’50s, when James was 14-years-old, he got very sick. He had to have emergency lung surgery. The surgery took several hours, he required 2.5 gallons of blood transfusion, and he needed to take several medications. Fortunately, he survived. When the doctors told James that he was going to be okay, he promised himself that when he was old enough, he would be an organ and blood donor. He was afraid of needles, but he wanted to stick to the promise he made himself.
As soon as James reached the legal age, he started working to figure out how to go about donating blood. He went to a local Red Cross Center in Sydney, to get the information that he needed. He was asked if he wanted to donate blood, plasma, or just platelets. Then he said he was willing to donate whole blood as often as they would allow, and he could donate plasma every few weeks. He made his first donation, and despite being afraid of the needle, he felt great.
A Phone Call
About a month after James donated for the first time, he got a phone call from the nurse. She asked him if he could come in to speak with the doctor. James was nervous, but he agreed to meet with the doctor. When he arrived, the doctor asked if he ever heard of Rhesus disease. James was told that he didn’t have the condition, but pregnant mothers and their fetuses can develop it. The disease can cause jaundice, anemia, brain damage, and death.
The disease occurs when the Rh factor is the mother’s and father’s blood don’t match. For example, if the mother’s blood type is A+, and the father is A-, it can attack the baby’s blood cells. The doctor told James that up until the ’60s, there were thousands of babies dying each year from the disease. Many women had miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage. The doctor told James that he could help save babies with Rhesus disease.
The doctor told James that certain people have antibodies for the disease in their own blood, and he was one of them. Immediately after hearing that he had the antibodies, he made it his mission to donate plasma every week. He hated needles, which made the donation unpleasant, but he kept his promise. A representative for the Red Cross of Australia, Ms. Falkenmire, it is unlikely that they will ever find another blood donor willing to make such an incredible commitment.
James was shocked when he learned that someone very close to him needed his blood. His daughter, Tracey Mellowship, found out that she was suffering from Rhesus disease when she got pregnant. She was given a transfusion of her father’s blood, and she gave birth to a healthy baby girl. James couldn’t believe that he could use his golden arm to save his granddaughter.
In 2018, James got some sad news. He has just turned 81-years-old, which is the limit for donating blood in Australia. His last donation was on May 11th. When he went into the center to donate, there were many women with their babies there. They had all been saved by James. His eyes filled with tears. The nurse told him that his last donation was the 1,173rd time that he had donated. It was an emotional moment, and when the nurse told James how many babies he saved, he broke down. In all the years that he was donating, he saved over 2.4 million unborn babies.
James was recognized for all the donations that he gave in his life. Because he had saved so many people. He was awarded the Medal Of the Order Of Australia. He also broke the Guinness World Record for the most blood donated in a lifetime. Most heroes can’t say that they have saved over 2.4 million lives, but James can. He is a real superhero. If it weren’t for his regular blood donations, many babies could have died, or suffered after being born. James says that he is thrilled that his golden arm was able to save so many. He just wishes he could keep donating so that he could save more lives.