After Diana Berrent recovered from a mild case of coronavirus, she decided to help those facing a more difficult fight against the sometimes fatal disease.

She became the first person in the state to be screened for antibodies that researchers hope might have the potential to treat others.

"What other time in history can any ordinary individual be part of the cure? That is an incredibly motivating factor," said Berrent.

Columbia University Irving Medical Center will use her plasma in clinical trials of the antibody therapy.

Plasma is the straw colored part of blood that carries antibodies, which are produced by the body's immune system to fight off viruses.

It is a method that has been used on patients for various diseases for decades, but it has not yet been proven to help fight the coronavirus. Dr. Eldad Hod, Director of the Center for Advanced Laboratory Medicine at Columbia University Irving Medical Center gave this analogy:

"It is like teaching someone how to fish, but here we are just giving you the fish, in this situation we are just giving the antibodies, we are not teaching the immune system how to fight the virus,” said Hod.

If successful, a single COVID-19 survivor may be able to provide enough plasma to treat two or three patients.

Once a potential donor is 14 days free of symptoms, they can get screened.

The donation process is similar to that of giving blood, but after the plasma is separated out, the rest of the blood is pumped back into the body.

"You don't lose red cells, you don't lose white cells in your platelets. You are just donating about 10 percent of your plasma which is a safe amount," added Dr. Hod.

Hospitals across the city are doing similar trials.


At Columbia, the plasma will be used on COVID patients in the ICU, and given to healthcare workers to see if it prevents them from falling ill.

"It was the most wonderful feeling to be able to give back and really be an active participant in this crisis," said Berrent.

While quarantined, Berrent started Survivor Corps, to connect survivors of COVID-19 and encourage them to become involved in the battle against the disease.

The NY Blood Center is collecting and processing the plasma for infusion, and maintaining a bank for hospitals to treat patients.

They are asking eligible donors to come forward.