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caption: Penelope Bell is a Seattle-area resident who recovered from Covid-19
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Penelope Bell is a Seattle-area resident who recovered from Covid-19
Credit: Photo courtesy of Penelope Bell

I had Covid-19. My body shook, 'discharging the collective terror' of us all

Penelope Bell is a Seattle-area resident and a leadership coach for entrepreneurs. At 60, she’s also a survivor of Covid-19.

Voices of the Pandemic features people in the Seattle area on the frontlines of the coronavirus outbreak in their own words.

I fell ill on the 12th of March, and what that looked like was all the energy just left my body. I was having dinner with two of my friends and after dinner I was like, something's wrong. Something's wrong, I need to go home.

I woke up Friday morning, took my temperature, no temperature. And then mid-morning, I started coughing. It was a dry cough; it felt different than a cough I had ever had before, and my fever started spiking.

I was tested on Friday, I waited until Monday, the 16th; I came back positive… One of the things that happens is that I would get really terrible tremors to the point where I thought I was going to bite my tongue or chip my teeth. I mean, I would wake up in these paroxysms of just my body shaking so hard. It was so intense.

There was this place of such deep quiet inside of me, even when my body was shaking so hard, and the thought that came was that my body was shaking off collective terror. It was literally discharging the collective terror of all of us.

I went to the hospital on March 22, tested positive for pneumonia. They put me on oxygen for a while, and I was lucky to be admitted and put on IV antibiotics. I was blessed enough to have a kind of pneumonia that responded to the antibiotics.

Now I'm waiting. God willing, I'll get my blood tested and find that I do have the antibodies and then will be able to donate my plasma, because I just want to do something for the first responders and the medical people who are getting sick and are putting their lives out there every day and they were so good, they were so good to me.

I was so grateful. I was so grateful I got to get tested. I was so grateful I had a bed at the hospital. I was so grateful that my body responded. I'm so grateful that I'm still here.

Every single one of us, this is a healing moment, even though it's terrifying and people are dying, and life is never going to be the same. I'm so clear our lives are never going to be the same, and I'm also really clear that that's a really good thing.

You know, we're going to be more connected and God willing, more compassionate, with each other when we come out of isolation. It's going to feel so good to hug each other. It's going feel so good to just keep looking out for each other. Things shift when we go through experiences like this as a collective, and the collective experience of this is what the healing is.

UPDATE: Penelope Bell told KUOW she now gives plasma once a week to help hospitalized patients at Swedish.

This essay comes from a transcript of portions of a video Bell recorded about her experience falling ill and recovering. It’s been edited down with her permission.

Producer Alec Cowan composed music for this story.