PHOENIX — It started in New York, but today the group "Survivor Corps" is reaching thousands across the country, including those in Arizona.
Long Island resident Diana Berrent created the group after testing positive for COVID-19 back in March.
"I wasn't the very first person to get COVID in my county, but I was among the first and at a point where we knew very little about the virus," she told ABC15. "And with that came both a responsibility and this incredible opportunity to really change the shape of the future of science and the understanding of this virus through us, through survivors who have antibodies in our blood."
On the Survivor Corps website, COVID-19 survivors can connect with research institutions across the country so their blood or convalescent plasma can be used to find a vaccine or treatment.
"I have now donated eight times, which is the full allotted times I was allowed to at the New York Blood Center," Barrent said. "But every one of those donations can save three to four lives."
Her experience has inspired thousands on the Survivor Corps Facebook page to do the same. Like Tracy Eisen, a nurse living in North Phoenix who tested positive for the virus in April. She first joined the group to find support.
"It did feel at the time that there was a stigma. A lot of people were testing positive but we weren't seeing the numbers in Arizona that we're seeing now," Eisen said. "I went in and immediately posted and got so much support. Strangers really came to my aid."
Now that she has recovered, Eisen said she has donated plasma once a week since May.
"My hope is that I'm helping to save some lives," she said.
But many in the group, like Glendale resident Lotus Moreno, are still fighting.
"I was shocked to hear about how many people who have had it early on and are dealing with what everyone's basically been calling a relapse, because we really don't know what it is," she said.
Moreno said she had COVID-like symptoms in February but tests weren't available at the time. She said she tested positive for the antibodies in April, which according to the Centers for Disease Control indicates she was likely infected with the virus that causes COVID-19 at some point in the past.
But three weeks ago, she says her COVID-like symptoms returned. She tested negative for the virus, but says her doctor believes it may be a false negative or post-COVID issues.
She says the group is filled with people across the country who share similar stories.
"To be able to go in and talk to people who are going through it, just a complete mindset change to where you don't feel so isolated and you feel validated because that's very easy to be dismissed," Moreno said.
Berrent says they are not medical professionals, but they have been bringing in professionals to join them on Facebook Live videos as an educational tool for members to learn and ask questions.
"We serve as a great resource for them to come lurk and let them see what people are talking about so they know what their studies should involve," Berrent said. "Because they are the ones who are going to be treating us for the next decade from the lasting impact of this virus."