GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. - Thousands of American are battling the lingering side effects of COVID-19 even months after recovering from the virus. As the community of "long haulers" grows, grassroots organizations are working to connect coronavirus survivors through first hand experience, information and resources to find support.
Diana Berrent is a coronavirus survivor and the founder of the nationwide group Survivor Corps. After 18 days in isolation when she was one of the first people to contract the virus on March 13, 2020 in New York City, she was motivated to start a movement.
“I went into isolation the day I got sick and I was in for 18 days and during those 18 days the world changed," says Berrent. "I formed survivor corps as a movement to mobilize an army of survivors to donate their plasma and support science in every way they can. Survivor Corps is really adding to the knowledge base about COVID. In many ways we have defined citizen science, we interpreted it as citizen scientists collaboration."
In addition to sharing first hand experience and information about donating plasma, Survivor Corps.com connects people who are struggling with recovery to resources like the Hope Network Neuro Rehabilitation program in Grand Rapids.
“This has created huge opportunities for creativity and developing health care," says Dr. Martin Waalkes, who is a director of Neuro Rehabilitation at Hope Network. "We’ve seen a lot of things that have been in the works to try to make healthcare more available to people all of a sudden flourish. “Adversity brings opportunity and can bring some positive changes too. And I think as long as we keep our mindset on is this providing us with something positive, it's much better than just feeling like we’re all doomed to whatever misery this brings.”
Most patients are referred to the rehabilitation programs through their primary doctor, but Dr. Waalkes says that the ground swell of activity we’re seeing in response to the pandemic, like the support network Survivor Corps is a path back to a normal life.
As ABC News reports, "an estimated 10% of people diagnosed with COVID-19 go on to experience prolonged symptoms, according to the British Medical Journal."
Survivor Corps is currently a community of more than 150,000 people and is a place for anyone who has been impacted by COVID 19. To connect with the Survivor Corps community on Facebook, click here.
“It’s truly an extraordinary space, I call it the epicenter of hope," says Berrent. "We are probably living in the most fractured political and social time of our lives and yet we’ve assembled 150,000 people who are having the most civilized, supportive conversations about COVID. It’s not political, it's about helping people, it's about keeping people from getting infected, it's what to do once you’ve got COVID, how get through it, how to get over it and how to help others.”
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