James Harrison (blood donor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

James Harrison

James Christopher Harrison

(1936-12-27) 27 December 1936 (age 86)
Known forBlood plasma donations spanning 60 years

James Christopher Harrison OAM (born 27 December 1936), also known as the Man with the Golden Arm, is a blood plasma donor[1] from Australia whose plasma contains antibodies against RhD which are used in making a treatment for Rhesus disease. One of the founding donors of New South Wales's Rh Program he regularly donated until, on 11 May 2018, he made his 1,173rd donation[2][3] – his last, as Australian policy prohibits blood donations from those past age 81.[4]

Early life[edit]

James Harrison was born on 27 December 1936.[5] In 1951, at the age of 14, he underwent major chest surgery, requiring a large amount of blood. Realizing that the blood had saved his life, he made a pledge to start donating blood himself as soon as he turned 18, the then-required age.[6]

Blood plasma donations[edit]

Harrison started donating in 1954. After the first few donations, it was discovered that his blood contained unusually strong and persistent antibodies against the D Rh group antigen. Blood which contains a high level of anti-D antibodies can be processed to create immunoglobulin-based products used to prevent haemolytic disease of the newborn (HDN). These products 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 the Rh(D) positive child. This antigen sensitization and subsequent incompatibility phenomenon causes Rhesus disease, the most common form of HDN.[3]

Harrison was one of the founding donors in NSW's Rh Program, one of the first in the world in 1969, and he has continuously donated since. As blood plasma, in contrast to blood, can be donated as often as once every two 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."[1] On 11 May 2018, he made his 1,173rd and last donation in compliance with Australian policy prohibiting blood donations from those past age 81.[4]

Through their donations the members of NSW's Rh program have provided millions of doses of anti-D and helped prevent thousands of deaths and stillbirths as well as many more instances of sickness and disability caused by HDN. Over his lifetime Harrison's donations amounted to tens of thousands of doses worth of antibodies and have contributed to every batch of anti-D produced in NSW.[3]

Research is also being done on creating a mixture of monoclonal antibodies, antibodies made by immortalized B cells in bioreactors, that matches what donors such as Harrison's bodies produce naturally. The project has been colloquially called "James in a Jar".[7]


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 volunteer donations. This opening of trade stemmed from a review of the country's free trade agreement with the United States.[8]


Harrison was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia (OAM) on 7 June 1999.[9] In 2011, he was nominated in the New South Wales Local Hero division of the Australian of the Year awards.[5]


  1. ^ a b "'Saving Lives'". TEN News. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 12 January 2013.
  2. ^ We Should Talk About What James Harrison Did... Philip Defranco. Archived from the original on 15 December 2021. Retrieved 25 May 2018.
  3. ^ a b c "Australia's pioneering Rh Program turns 50". Australian Red Cross Lifeblood. Retrieved 3 March 2023.
  4. ^ a b Criss, Doug (11 May 2018). "He donated blood every week for 60 years and saved the lives of 2.4 million babies". CNN. Retrieved 11 May 2018.
  5. ^ a b "James Harrison OAM". australianoftheyear.org.au. Archived from the original on 11 June 2014. Retrieved 11 June 2014.
  6. ^ "James Harrison: Australian Man With Special Blood Type Saves 2 Million Babies". The Huffington Post. 24 March 2010. Retrieved 2 April 2010.
  7. ^ Stevens, Matt (14 May 2018). "'Man With the Golden Arm' Saved Millions of Australian Babies With His Blood". The New York Times. Retrieved 8 June 2020.
  8. ^ "James Harrison: FTA threatens blood donor system". The Australian. Australia. 19 January 2007. Retrieved 3 April 2010.
  9. ^ "James Christopher Harrison". It's An Honour. Retrieved 10 October 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)