The need goes on #3: Surviving a bleeding disorder and cancer

Brock Powell has relied on blood transfusions most of his life


Brock Powell rang this bell to signal the end of cancer treatment, during which he also received blood products. 

Brock Powell rang this bell to signal the end of cancer treatment, during which he also received blood products.

Brock Powell has relied on blood transfusions for most of his life and there’s no guarantee he won’t need them during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“When I get a blood transfusion it’s typically for an emergency,” says Brock, 26, who has von Willebrand disease. People with the disorder have low levels of a protein called von Willebrand factor, or they have normal amounts but the protein doesn’t perform as it should. Von Willebrand factor is necessary for blood to clot.

An emergency for Brock could be as simple as a nosebleed that doesn’t stop. Growing up, he estimates he was treated with blood products three to seven times per year. Without donors, he says he might not be alive today.

“I can’t even put into words how grateful I am to these strangers,” Brock says.

Canadian Blood Services needs healthy donors to keep booking and honouring their appointments during the COVID-19 pandemic to help patients like Brock and many others across the country. Public health officials including the Chief Public Health Officer of Canada, Dr. Theresa Tam, are also calling on donors to help prevent blood shortages.

A cancer setback

In January 2018 Brock faced yet another ordeal: a diagnosis of testicular cancer. During his treatment he relied on donated red blood cells and platelets.

Thankfully, Brock’s cancer is now in remission. On Good Friday 2018, the day of his last chemotherapy treatment, his friends and family hosted a blood drive in his honour in his hometown of Kingston, Ont. A second Blood For Brock event followed in 2019 and a third is planned for April 10, 2020.

This spring, fear of COVID-19 is driving many donors to cancel their appointments or avoid booking. Brock hopes they’ll reconsider and instead seize the opportunity to get out of the house for a while. Donor centres remain safe and patients are counting on them.

“Make an appointment to donate blood,” he says. “You’re being empowered to potentially save somebody else’s life.”

The risk of COVID-19 is prompting people across Canada to avoid public spaces of all kinds. However, the need for blood products continues, and our donor centres continue to be safe places to visit with appropriate social distancing measures in place. Our website is updated daily with information about our own response to COVID-19 including our measures to keep donors safe. To make an appointment you can download the GiveBlood app, call 1 888 2 DONATE (1-888-236-6283) or book now at

Share this story


Related stories