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People who may have saved your life you never heard of

Posted by mandyf on May 8, 2012

Heroes walk among us everyday, and we rarely if ever recognize them. There are people that save lives that many times live in obscurity, even if they perhaps helped save the lives of our own parents, siblings, or maybe even our own. Their contributions to world cannot be quantified even though we may try in some attempt to understand the magnitude of their contributions to humanity.

 Norman Borlaug is a name few people know even though he is credited with being the father of the green revolution – not Al Gore who incidentally didn’t invent the internet either. Norman Bourlag held Ph.D’s in plant pathology and genetics, and while you may wonder how he saved lives, he is credited with saving an estimated 10.5 million people annually for every year he was alive – he lived to be 95 incidentally, and the total he has saved continues to climb every year.

Dr, Bourlag spent the bulk of the first half of his life developing plants that were not only disease free, but high yield. In simple terms, he created super crops. Once he developed his arsenal of super crops, he spent most of the rest of his life getting them planted around the world ensuring that millions who may otherwise starve had food to eat. So significant were hos contributions to the world, he received a stained glass window at St. Mark’s Episcopal Cathedral, 49 honorary degrees, the Congressional Gold Medal, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a Nobel Peace Prize for good measure.

Henry Dunant was a Swiss businessman who after witnessing the horror of some 38,000 soldiers who were dead or wounded and left to die after the Battle of Solferino in 1859 during the Second Italian War of Independence changed the world. Dunant mobilized the town and turned it into what was effectively one huge aid station staffed with nothing but volunteers who knew no more about medicine than he did for the most part.

Regardless of nationality, Dunant and his volunteers aided anyone who required attention, built hospitals, procured supplies, and held the hands of the dying. While he did not actually found the International Red Cross, his actions served as the inspiration for it as is noted when he received the First Nobel Peace Prize ever awarded in 1901.

Henrietta Lacks was a woman that lived a rather ordinary life. She was a poor African-American woman with five children that made her way in the world as a tobacco farmer in the days when segregation was still the law of the land. When she fell ill with cervical cancer and went to Johns Hopkins, she received the type of care one would expect a person like her to get in that era. She underwent radiation therapy which at the time was primitive at best and just as good as signing a death warrant in many regards, and as expected she did die.

In death however, she became one of the greatest life savers on the planet. The doctors treating Ms. Lacks noted that her cells were not dying. They could be kept alive and cultivated indefinitely. With this discovery, they began cultivating her cells…and cultivating more…and more…and they continue to until this day to the tune of 50 million metric tons of Ms. Lacks cells which have been named HenLa. In case you are curious, there are so many tons of HenLa on the planet that they outweigh 100 Empire State buildings.

 HenLa became known as the “immortal” cell, and has been used for research into everything from cancer and AIDS, to Polio, gene mapping, and the effects of radiation on cells. How many millions of people her cells have helped saved is incalculable – and it all came from a poor woman that died at 32 and was buried without a headstone.

At the age of 13, James Harrison underwent a complicated chest surgery which required the use of 13 liters of blood over a twelve week period. Understanding that without the donations of blood made by people he never met, he felt an obligation to donate blood himself to help others as soon as he was old enough. When he turned 18, he kept the promise he made to himself and began donating blood. He has donated his blood around 1,000 times in 56 years. You’re thinking that is impressive, but why include a man that is a prolific blood donor?

When Harrison’s blood was screened, it was discovered that it contains a rare enzyme that thwarts Rhesus disease. Rhesus disease kills babies at a prolific rate, and there was no way anyone could figure out how to stop it. Because of the discovery that the enzyme in his blood could do the job, his donations were specifically pulled – with his full knowledge – and used to help save the lives of – wait for it – an estimated 2 million babies globally. There are healthy adults in nearly every country of the world right now because Harrison kept his promise to himself to donate blood that otherwise would be dead. Because of that, he is known as the “man with the golden arm.” Match that Brett Favre!

These are but a few examples of people that have changed the world and saved the lives of millions they have never met in one way or another. They were not exceptionally gifted people, but they were exceptionally generous people in way or another in life and their own death. So massive is their impact on the world, you mat be alive and reading this right now because of one of them and not even realize it.

Sources:

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/worldnews/article-12 59627/Man-golden-arm-James-Harrison-saves-2million-b abies-half-century-donating-rare-blood.html
http://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/Henriet ta-Lacks-Immortal-Cells.html
http://nobelprize.org/nobel_prizes/peace/laureates/1 901/dunant-bio.html
http://www.normanborlaug.org/

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One Response to “People who may have saved your life you never heard of”

  1. Libby Keane said

    great post. There are too many unsung hero’s.

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