The Man with the Golden Arm


James Harrison
Photo via Australian Red Cross Blood Service

Bruce Gulland and Liz Waid look at the life-saving medicine Anti-D. This medicine comes from people like James Harrison and his special blood.

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Transcript


Voice 1  

Welcome to Spotlight. I’m Bruce Gulland.

Voice 2  

And I’m Liz Waid. Spotlight uses a special English method of broadcasting. It is easier for people to understand, no matter where in the world they live.

Voice 1  

James Harrison sits in a comfortable chair. He smiles and talks to the people around him. But there is something strange about why he is sitting. There is a thin, sharp needle in his arm. It is connected by a long thin tube to a machine. James Harrison is giving blood. But this is not a normal blood donation. Harrison has given blood over 1000 times. And his blood is very special. People have used Harrison’s blood to save over two million babies in Australia! Today’s Spotlight is on James Harrison and his amazing blood.

Voice 2  

People who have had accidents or are having operations sometimes need more blood. So, many people around the world donate, or give, their blood. Hospitals give this blood to their patients. Most healthy people can safely give blood. But Harrison has given a lot more blood than the average person. James Harrison turned 81 in 2018. He is now too old to give blood. But he donated blood for more than 60 years! James Harrison told CNN about why he started giving blood:

Voice 3  

"In 1951 I had a chest surgery where they removed a lung. I was 14. When I came out of the operation my father was explaining what had happened. He said I had received 13 liters of blood. My life had been saved by unknown people. My dad was a blood donor. So I said: When I am old enough, I will become a blood donor."

Voice 1  

Soon after he started giving blood, Doctors discovered his blood was different. Doctors could use substances in Harrison’s blood to prevent rhesus disease. Rhesus disease is a condition caused by differences in blood. Babies with rhesus disease can have serious health problems or even die.

Voice 2  

To understand rhesus disease there are some things a person needs to know about blood. All human blood is similar but there are different blood types called O, A, B, and AB. Each blood type is either rhesus negative or positive. For example, there is B positive blood, and B negative blood. People who are rhesus negative cannot receive blood from people who are rhesus positive. Hospitals are very careful not to give people the wrong blood type.

Voice 1  

Rhesus disease happens when a mother is rhesus negative, but her baby is rhesus positive. When this happens the mother’s body may reject or attack the baby. An antibody is a substance in a person’s blood. The mother’s blood produces antibodies to attack the baby’s cells inside her.

Voice 2  

Then a baby has rhesus disease. Babies with rhesus disease may have many health problems. Their inner organs and body systems do not work correctly. In many cases, they die. Jemma Falkenmire works for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. She told CNN how this affected her country:

Voice 4  

"In Australia, until about 1967, there were thousands of babies dying each year. Doctors did not know why. It was awful. Women were having many miscarriages and babies were being born with brain damage. Australia was one of the first countries to discover a blood donor with this antibody. It changed everything at the time."

Voice 1  

Doctors used the antibody they found to develop an injection. The injection is called Anti-D. It is the only known way to fight rhesus disease. And the donor that Falkenmire is talking about is James Harrison. Anti-D can only be made from the blood of particular donors like him. Doctors give injections of Anti-D to pregnant women at risk of rhesus disease. This stops the mother’s body from attacking the baby’s cells. Then there is a much better chance of having a healthy baby. Millions of women need these injections. But only a few people have the antibodies needed to make Anti-D in their blood.

Voice 2  

In some places in the world they do not even have the choice of receiving Anti-D. In many countries there is not enough information about rhesus disease. In 2018, researchers Zipursky, Bhutani and Odame did a study. They looked at rhesus disease as a major public health problem in developing countries. They published an article in The Lancet. It states that rhesus disease is the cause of death of over 150,000 babies every year, worldwide. They hope that there will be more global research about this important issue.

Voice 1  

Scientists and doctors have tried to make Anti-D in the laboratory, without blood. But so far it has not worked. People still depend on blood donors. The Sydney Morning Herald reports that in Australia, there are only around 150 people able to give blood to make Anti-D. And about 17 percent of Australian women are at risk. So James Harrison has been an important part of the blood program there for 60 years. Robyn Barlow is the Rh program coordinator. She first asked James to donate his blood for this cause. She told the Herald:

Voice 5  

“Every dose of Anti-D ever made in Australia has James in it - since the very first mother received her dose at Royal Prince Alfred Hospital in 1967.”

Voice 2  

James Harrison’s blood has a very high level of Anti-D. This is probably because he received some of the wrong kind of blood during his surgery as a young man. But James Harrison was also willing to give. He gave blood every two weeks for most of his life. He is a hero in Australia. About two point four million babies were born healthy because of Harrison’s blood. People call him “The Man with the Golden Arm.”

Voice 1  

Over his 60 years, James Harrison has donated blood over 1,100 times. He spent half a day every two weeks with a sharp needle in his arm. He cannot donate anymore. But he hopes that other people will take his place. He tells the Australian Red Cross,

Voice 3  

“I hope it is a record that someone breaks. That will mean they are dedicated to saving people’s lives.”

Voice 2  

Have you ever given blood? Have you ever received someone’s blood? Do you think you would give blood to help someone else? Tell us what you think. You can leave a comment on our website. Or email us at radio@radioenglish.net. You can also comment on Facebook at Facebook.com/spotlightradio.

Voice 1  

The writer of this program was Rena Dam. The producer was Michio Ozaki. The voices you heard were from the United Kingdom and the United States. All quotes were adapted for this program and voiced by Spotlight. You can listen to this program again, and read it, on the internet at www.radioenglish.net. This program is called, “The Man with the Golden Arm”.

Voice 2  

Visit our website to download our free official app for Android or Apple devices. We hope you can join us again for the next Spotlight program. Goodbye.

Question:

Have you ever given blood? Have you ever needed blood after an accident or surgery?

Comments


Avatar Spotlight
luatdq
said on November 27, 2018

Thank spotlight English for an interesting topic. This topic has a lot of medical vocabularies that is stranger with me.
I think James Harrison as a hero and we are hard to meet other people the same him. In Viet Nam, we always talk ” Save a man’s life than build the seven pagoda towers” so James Harrison likes the living Buddha.
I don’t know who has a very high level of Anti-D in the world? and if other children in the world have Rhesus disease, Do they have the other medicine to fight it?

Avatar Spotlight
Honneur
said on November 27, 2018

I think I know James Harrison’s satifaction to donate his blood. I did it more than 20 times in my life and ever that people need blood I’m ready to help. Spotlight had had a blessed action that bring us programs whit this kind of information. Thank you so much.

Avatar Spotlight
Dela
said on December 02, 2018

James Harrison’s giving blood represents the creditable achievement of compassion, understanding and solidarity. Because of his precious blood many endangered babies were born healthy. I suppose all of us should regard blood donation as the obvious moral duty if we get opportunity to help rescue health or even lives of other people! Unfortunately, only few people have such special, precious blood containing the high level of Anti-D, similar to J. Harrison’s blood.
Thanks Spotlight team for sharing such amazing story!
Greetings!

Avatar Spotlight
ebsa
said on December 13, 2018

tq