Mr. Harrison had been donating blood for more than a decade when researchers found him in the 1960s and asked him to become the first donor in what would eventually come to be known as the Anti-D program.
His blood was exactly what they were looking for. His body naturally produces the antibody that prevents the hemolytic disease. Mr. Harrison said he was still not sure exactly why, but believes it might have something to do with the blood he received as a teenager.
“The Red Cross and Australia can never thank a man like James enough,” said Jemma Falkenmire, a spokeswoman for the Australian Red Cross Blood Service. “It’s unlikely we will ever have another blood donor willing to make this commitment.”
Mr. Harrison has been widely praised and has received the Medal of the Order of Australia for his longtime support of the Australian Red Cross Blood Service and the Anti-D program. Ms. Falkenmire said researchers were even working on what they have called a “James in a Jar project,” with the goal of synthetically creating a mixture of antibodies that matches what Mr. Harrison produces naturally.
According to Ms. Falkenmire, medical professionals are able to stimulate production of the antibody in donors, but the process can lead to a flulike reaction. Complicating matters, she said, not every potential donor — even those with the right blood type — are able to create the antibody as Mr. Harrison can.
On Sunday, Mr. Harrison said he had enjoyed meeting the mothers, nurses and others who had gone out of their way over the years to find and thank him.