Patient Zero – How One Man Saved The World

When James Harrison was fourteen years old he had to go into hospital for major chest surgery – an operation that ended with him receiving thirteen litres of blood. This operation not only saved his life, it saved the lives of an estimated two million, two hundred thousand people born since then. You see, the operation convinced James to become an organ donor and also to donate blood regularly. It was shortly after his first donation that he was found to be carrying a very rare antibody in his blood. This antibody, found in one out of every two million people on average, can be used to fight a particularly nasty disease called Rhesus. This disease creates an incompatibility between the mother’s blood and the blood of the baby she’s carrying. At the time that this antibody was discovered in James Harrison, thousands of babies were dying thanks to Rhesus and many more were suffering permanent brain damage, amongst other development problems, due to it. This was in 1950.

Sixty years later and James (now seventy-four years old) is still giving blood every few weeks, and expected to hit his thousandth donation in September. His plasma has been used to develop a vaccine (introduced in 1977) that can be given to mothers to fight Rhesus and also given to babies to stop them developing Rhesus when they get older. This “Anti-D” vaccine is estimated to have saved the lives of approximately 2.2 million babies so far and it wouldn’t have been possible without Mr Harrison’s compliance with the project and continued donations of blood. It’s hard to imagine just how many billions of lives will be saved or improved in the long run thanks to this man’s contributions to modern medicine. He is truly a saviour of mankind.

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16 thoughts on “Patient Zero – How One Man Saved The World

  1. There's an old saying where I'm from. "A hero isn't defined by the things he does, but by the few people who know he's done them."

  2. How absolutely cool that they discovered that he carries the antibody, and that they're able to use it like they do. The doctors can do miracles with the right tools. :up:

  3. Darko, it's an old Furie family saying. Comes from the founding father of the family.Kiran, I recognised the name as soon as I got to that link. That's the woman with cancer whose tumour combined with her unique cellular regeneration means that the tissue keeps growing even now that she's dead. If I remember correctly there's now more of her cells in labs across the world than existed when she was alive. Fascinating isn't it. Kitty, this is one of the unsung heroes in this world. A single person with the key to a single disease, who just happened to be in the right situation to save so many lives.

  4. James is in an interesting position – he can look back and know with absolute certainty that he made a difference! :up:

  5. :lol:. It's the chronic pain meds I'm on, not allowed to donate blood because that stuff builds up in your system and can harm anyone receiving that blood. :awww:.

  6. Pain's a state of mind. Without medication you can become used to any level of pain and make it your new resting state. Now get out there and see how many lives you can save. :up:

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