Today in 2018, a man named James Harrison gave blood for the last time; health rules required that he retire at age 81.

This sounds nice and maybe a bit ordinary, except that James Harrison and his blood donations span decades and decades – and helped save millions of lives.

Harrison grew up in Australia, and when he was 14 he had to have a major chest surgery, which of course involves donated blood.

Harrison decided that if other people’s donations had saved his life, he would repay those donations by giving his own blood.

And when he was old enough, that’s what he started doing.

Health agencies will tell you pretty much every blood donation can save a life, but Harrison’s blood was especially useful.

There’s a disease called Rhesus D, in which antibodies in the rhesus-negative blood of a parent can actually attack the rhesus-positive blood of a baby during pregnancy.

It can be extremely dangerous, even life threatening for the baby.

James Harrison’s blood contains a rare antibody that can be added to a special injection called Anti-D.

That injection stops Rhesus D before it starts.

He started donating plasma as often as he could – nearly every week, for about 60 years.

Health officials in Australia say the injections his blood made possible saved over two million babies from Rhesus D, including one of his own grandchildren.

The country gave Harrison the Medal of the Order of Australia in honor of his donations.

He said simply, “It’s something I can do.”

Here’s a fun website we learned about from the blog Nag on the Lake.

Typatone presents you with an online keyboard and a cursor.

When you type in words and letters, it turns your text into musical tones and rhythms.

James Harrison’s story (Australian Red Cross)

Make music while you write  (Nag on the Lake)

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