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One of Georgia's first COVID-19 survivors now donating plasma to help others

People who have recovered from the virus are donating their plasma, hoping their antibodies can help those still sick.

ATLANTA — Signs of hope from people who have recovered from COVID-19 and are now donating plasma to help those still fighting it.

Some of the people first diagnosed in the state are now spending their recovery helping others.

Clay Bentley was on a ventilator in early March, on life support with COVID-19.

"I was one of the first people here who was diagnosed with corona, so my blood became a commodity," he said.

Since being released and cleared, Bentley said he wants to do everything he can to help those still fighting the virus.

"Knowing that I have what's inside of me to help them overcome that, I have to do it," he said. "I have to do it."

While he wants to help, Clay admits the process was scary at first.

"It was an emotional thing for me, because it just took me, when I got on that bus, laid on the bed -- and they were putting things in my arms and standing over me with those masks," he said. "It took me back to when I was in the hospital, alone, and in the worst condition in my life. It took me back to that moment."

He said he wanted to face it though, to help people still going through it.

The Red Cross is ramping up their efforts to contact as many recovered patients as they can.

"It's really an all-hands-on-deck effort to get the plasma to the hospitals and the patients," said Red Cross Medical Director Baia Lasky.

RELATED: Real-time updates | More than 17,000 confirmed cases reported with 650 deaths in Georgia

Lasky says they're working with the FDA to find out everything they can about how convalescent plasma can help.

"It hasn't been studied well enough. But based on previous studies and other diseases, there is promise. But we don't know until we put it out there," she said. 

She says they welcome anyone who tested positive for the virus. 

"We have to have confirmed that they actually did have the virus," Lasky said. "There are a number of people in the community who may have, or think they have, but they never got tested, so we have to know that they actually were positive and they actually have to be negative now."

Clay says if there's even a chance he can help people come out the other side, like he did, he'll do it.

"In my heart, I can't just not do it knowing that there's people laying in a hospital bed, fighting for air, fighting for breath, knowing I can help them get out of it just like I got out of it," he said. 

11Alive is focusing our news coverage on the facts and not the fear around the virus.  We want to keep you informed about the latest developments while ensuring that we deliver confirmed, factual information. 

We will track the most important coronavirus elements relating to Georgia on this page. Refresh often for new information. 

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