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Exclusive: First Coronavirus Survivors Offering Antibodies, Hope For Others' Recoveries

NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) -- The Tri-State Area's first COVID-19 survivors are beginning to come out of isolation, and that is giving researchers hope they can harness those patients' antibodies to fight the disease in others.

One Port Washington mom is heading the recruitment effort, CBS2's Carolyn Gusoff reported Monday.

Diana Berrent had been dreaming of the reunion with her family since her first dreaded symptoms and 17 days in isolation. Now she's is on a mission.

"I'm a COVID-19 survivor," she said. "I'm extraordinarily lucky."

Freed from quarantine, she's breathing sweet fresh air and heading directly to Columbia University to enlist as COVID-19 donor number one in its plasma study.

MORE: Recovering Long Island Mom Has Big Plans For Survivors

"My body figured out how to fight it off," said Berrent. "So let's use that superpower that my body created and transfer to somebody whose immune system didn't kick in the same way."


In isolation, Berrent became a loud voice of the COVID community, the first to sound the alarm about testing flaws, then creating a "Survivor Corps" on Facebook to harness the power of survivors' immunity.

Now she's leading the call for survivors to join trials like the one launched by Dr. Eldad Hod, a clinical pathologist at NewYork-Presbyterian/Columbia University. His work focuses on determining if antibodies from survivors' blood can help.

MORE: COVID-19 Survivor Corps Facebook Page

"This is actually a national effort. This is happening at all major hospitals all over the country, where the goal is if we have enough plasma in the supply then we can do trials to try to figure out where it might be most useful," said Hod.

CORONAVIRUS: NY Health Dept. | NY Call 1-(888)-364-3065 | NYC Health Dept. | NYC Call 311, Text COVID to 692692 | NJ COVID-19 Info Hub | NJ Call 1-(800)-222-1222 or 211, Text NJCOVID to 898211 | CT Health Dept. | CT Call 211 | Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

Donors' plasma could potentially be used by week's end. For now, the FDA is only allowing use for the critically ill on a compassionate experimental basis. Dr. Hod is hopeful there will be a wider benefit down the road.

"You can use it in health care workers who on the front lines. You can give it to them before they go out on their shifts," said Hod. "Patients who are sick, but they're not sick enough to be on a respirator. We could use this treatment to prevent them from getting onto a respirator."

The more volunteers, the better to create a national resource.

"There is going to be plenty of New Yorkers out there in the coming weeks that are going to qualify," Hod said.

"There are very few ways to truly help right now if you're not a medical professional, but so many of us are about to be survivors just like me. Be a superhero, save a life," Berrent said.

Once accepted, donors' blood goes through the usual testing and then antibody-rich plasma is shipped to hospitals where they can be used for up to a year.

People who are recovering from COVID-19 infections and could donate convalescent plasma can contact Columbia University online at

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