On the morning of January 19, 2018 Kelly Vallier got the call all parents dread. Her youngest son, Brock Powell, was in the Emergency Department at Kingston Health Sciences Centre’s (KHSC) Kingston General Hospital (KGH) site.
Kelly drove to KGH and took a surprisingly familiar post by her son’s hospital bed. Born in 1994, Brock had been diagnosed with von Willebrand disease, Type 2B, a bleeding disorder, and he suffered from severe childhood asthma. A near-constant series of health trials kept them on a revolving door relationship with the hospital for the first three and a half years of Brock’s life. Kelly had to learn quickly how to stand watch through her son’s life-and-death battles, and bear witness to painful surgeries and procedures.
On that cloudy day in January, she was better-prepared than most parents for the next and perhaps toughest fight of all: testicular cancer that had metastasized to Brock’s lungs. He was given a fifty percent chance of survival. Chemotherapy would begin the next day.
It has been said that old habits die hard. Thankfully, for this remarkably resilient mother-and-son team, faith in the healthcare system was as much a family tradition as Sunday dinners. “We’ve had a lot of trauma,” admits Kelly, “we have tested all the staff at KGH. We have thrown so many things at them to try to figure out, to keep us alive. And they have done it.”
Because of Brock’s bleeding disorder, chemotherapy was administered on an inpatient basis and there were complications, including a perforated gallbladder which required emergency surgery. For Kelly it was a déja-vu of the pediatric years, complete with hospital sleepovers. Helping her grown-up son was not all that different, “He still needed the ginger ale, the cold cloth, and the hand to hold.”
On Good Friday, March 30, Brock Powell rang the bell in the cancer centre signaling the end of his chemotherapy treatments. “I was cancer-free,” he says, “The chemotherapy had cleared everything, even my lungs.” Then on June 12, 2019, he rang it again, having been in remission for one full year.
Brock says the milestone moment sticks with him, every day. “These bells symbolize something pretty big.” It was a triumphant moment for Kelly, too, “That was a big fight,” she says, “but we did it!’ We did it together
; we did it with a lot of people
This story was written in 2019. Since then, Brock found his way back to the Emergency Department at the KGH site on Canada Day 2020. This time, he needed a COVID-19 test and had to have specialized preventative care because of the complications with his bleeding disorder.
“It’s a testament again to the healthcare system we have here, the training and the knowledge of the staff. And just being able to feel relieved, which is usually not a word you would say going into an Emergency Department.”
- Brock Powell