'I just want to do my part': COVID-19 victim turns diagnosis into call to action, becomes contact tracer

LOMBARD, Ill. (WLS) -- One west suburban woman is turning her COVID-19 diagnosis into a call to action.

Not only is she set to donate her plasma for the first time, but she is also now a COVID-19 contact tracer.

Julie Sparks is a caregiver to her 78-year-old mother Eileen, who has more trouble breathing after beating the virus.

"As soon as I saw the word 'positive,' I just, I just panicked," Sparks said as she described opening her COVID-19 test results.

Sparks and her mother both contracted COVID-19 in early October.

"It was touch and go there with her for a while because I'm not a nurse and I was taking care of my mom," she said.

But while Sparks was quarantining in her room, she was taking courses online to make a difference in the fight for our lives.

"I ended up getting my certification to be a contact tracer," she said.

Not only will she help identify and slow the spread of COVID-19, she's donating her plasma with COVID-19 antibodies for the first time this weekend now that she's recovered.

"This has the potential to save three people's lives with just one donation," Sparks said. "These are people in the ICU. They could be my neighbor's relatives. They could be my neighbor."

Sparks said she wants other COVID-19 victims to know that you can get through this. There is hope, and when you do, you can help others too.

"When I took that course and then I got that call, I was like, OK. I'm being told or led that I've got to do more and I wanted to do more," Sparks said.

Sparks' uncle died earlier this year from COVID-19.

"It's a Russian roulette that we play with this disease," she said. "I just want to do my part to just affirm the fact that I'm on the other side of that. And to help my community."
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