PORT WASHINGTON, NY — For more than two weeks, Port Washington mother Diana Berrent has been a prisoner in her own bedroom after testing positive for the coronavirus, self-isolating not only from the outside world but from her husband and two children. While she’s still showing symptoms, her condition is gradually improving, and she’s now hoping to help others fight the virus.
“I am feeling much, much better. I’m still symptomatic,” Berrent told Patch. “There’s an unrelenting headache, stomach issue that’s lingering longer than you’d imagine. But I am so much better, and I’m close to being just fine. It’ll be a while before I feel 100 percent back to myself.”
On March 13, Berrent said she woke up with a 102-degree fever. Immediately, she knew something was awry.
“I hadn’t had a fever in over a decade,” she said. “So I knew that something was immediately wrong. I had every symptom in the book.”
A test would later confirm her worst fears: She was infected with the COVID-19 disease, as it’s officially known. She became one of the first people on Long Island to contract it. However, even before a test confirmed what she had already suspected, she knew she had to self-isolate, doing so just 15 minutes after waking up with the initial symptoms.
“I quickly gathered everything I needed, grabbed my laptop, went into my bedroom, and I have not been out since,” she said. “Thank goodness that I didn’t. I did post all of my whereabouts on Facebook even before I had the positive diagnosis because I was so concerned. I have spoken to everybody I’ve had contact with and, thank goodness, so far I have not given it to anybody else.”
According to Berrent, she believes she contracted the coronavirus March 9 while meeting with about eight others on Great Neck. It wasn’t until several days later, however, that she began feeling sick. Most of the people at that meeting with her are also now sick. One was even hospitalized.
“This virus is deadly,” she said. “It is so contagious.”
Although the elderly and people with underlying conditions are most susceptible to catching the virus, Berrent, 45, who has no underlying health issues, said the virus shows no bias. Everyone is at risk.
“I now people who are my age and on ventilators right now,” she stressed. “There are people younger than me who have already died from this. This is not just affecting old people. There is no one who is safe.”
She is pleading with people who continue to ignore state and local orders to minimize contact with the public to heed the warning. It is the only way to “flatten the curve” and keep even more people from contracting the virus, she stressed.
“In order to contain it, every single person has a responsibility to act as if they are already infected. And every single person they infect is either their best friend or their grandmother,” she said.
Although Berrent remains isolated in her bedroom away from her husband and two children, she’s not just sitting there feeling sorry for herself. She said she has decided to become part of the solution to hopefully help minimize the spread of the virus by starting the group, Survivor Corps.
“The advantage of being the first person diagnosed with COVID-19 in your area is that you also get to be the first survivor. Realizing I had a role to play, I am working to create an opt-in database of people around the country who have tested positive and have recovered from the virus,” she said.
The U.S. Centers for Disease and Control and Prevention is currently working to develop a new lab test to assist with efforts to determine how much of the U.S. population has been exposed to the new coronavirus. According to the CDC, the antibodies detected by this test indicate that a person had an immune response to COVID-19, whether symptoms developed from infection or the infection was asymptomatic. In order to develop the test, the CDC needs blood samples from people who had COVID-19 at least 21 days after their symptoms first started.
By creating her platform, Berrent said she hopes to provide research institutes with an easy way to connect with COVID-19 survivors directly, so the sickest among us can be helped without further delay.
“Once the antibody test is released and the suspicion of immunity is 100 percent confirmed, we as survivors will be superheroes,” she said. “We can volunteer on the front lines.”
To learn more about Survivor Corps, click here.