The illness develops when the pregnant women having Rh negative blood type carries baby having Rh positive blood, which the baby inherits from the father.
The affectionate nickname comes from homage to the Australian senior's astonishing blood donor track record and the game-changing effect that his donations have had on his country.
After 1173 donations, the 81-year-old has finally hung up his blood bag. In acute cases, the disease can lead to brain damage or even death for the unborn babies. This prevents the mother from developing an immunity from the baby's blood.
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'Medications like Anti-D are a life-giving intervention for thousands of Australian mums, but they are only available because men like James give blood'.
As recalled by the Washington Post, Harrison chose to become a blood donor when he was 14-years-old, after he survived a chest operation that required the removal of one of his lungs, keeping him in the hospital for three months. In the five decades since then, Harrison kept on donating blood, with the plasma used to create "millions" more Anti-D injections for expecting mothers. This medication helps remove the RHD blood cells in the fetus before it becomes sensitized.
The woman's body responds to the RhD positive blood by producing antibodies (infection-fighting molecules) that recognise the foreign blood cells and destroy them.
Rhesus disease does not harm the mother, but it can cause the baby to become anaemic and develop jaundice (yellowing of the skin and whites of the eyes).
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Harrison began donating blood after he went through a major chest surgery when he was 14-years-old, said the Australian Red Cross Blood Service.
This disease is now treatable with a medicine called anti-D immunoglobulin.
She continued: "Australia owes a big thank you to James Harrison".
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