Back to Life
This local news broadcaster’s story is nothing short of astounding. See how she’s pushing forward and encouraging others with the inspiration that can only be found in a second chance at life.
Alanna Martella’s journey in this life is nothing short of a miracle, and adventurous.
As a little girl, she remembers just how much she loved watching the news, a love she inherited from her mother, who, she recalls, always had the news on the television.
“She was so interested in knowing what was going on in the community,” says Martella. “Through that, I grew to love the news, too. I loved watching the anchors at the desk and how they developed a rapport with viewers they didn’t know – and how they can seem like your friend without ever being introduced in-person.”
As a person who also found interest in curiosity, Martella says that her love for the news and for being a “Curious George” meant that it only made sense for her to become a broadcaster.
The journey from being a little girl with dreams of becoming a broadcaster to actually becoming a broadcaster had some bumps along the way.
According to Martella, her health story began her senior year of high school.
“I was visiting my grandma at her nursing home and felt this extreme pain in my abdomen,” she explains. “It felt as if my insides were on fire. I have never felt anything like this pain and hope to God I never will again.”
She says the pain continued for hours and she recalls laying in bed that night in the fetal position, in a pool of sweat, and looking out at the moon almost wishing for death. “I felt that would be the only way to relieve myself of the utter anguish that I was experiencing,” she adds.
She eventually made it to the bathroom,where she then passed out. Martella hit the ground hard enough that her dad heard and found her on the bathroom floor. With a pulse of 167 beats per minute, 911 was called and she was rushed to the hospital.
“Upon arrival at the Emergency Room, I had to go to the bathroom,” she says. “I asked my mom, who had driven to meet me there (since nobody could join me in the ambulance), to help me because I was in so much pain and was so lethargic that I couldn’t walk or hold myself up. So, with my mom’s help, I went into the bathroom. And this is when it happened – I thrashed about a couple of times and then just went limp.”
Then, it happened. Martella died.
A nurse who rushed to the room to provide assistance called a double code and Martella was rushed to the operating room.
While her death experience is another tale in itself, she made it back to this side of consciousness and remembers the following events rather vividly.
“The doctors were in the zone and rattling off medical terms that didn’t make any sense,” she says. “I remember looking at the back of the room and seeing my mom, dad, and stepdad bawling their eyes out, and I was so confused as to what was happening! I looked to the doctor to my right and asked if I was going to be okay — in which he responded, ‘We’re going to do the best we can.’”
Even while laying on a gurney, Martella understood the impact of those words, and didn’t see such a bright future for herself. But, she made it through with a newfound love of life and passion for ensuring her own health.
It turns out that Martella’s small intestines had been twisting around each other. “They had twisted for so long, circulation was cut off and created sepsis, which is how I died,” she says. “The intestines were so dead and necrotic that when the doctors went in to see what was wrong, they actually crumbled in their hands.”
The surgeons removed 15 feet of her small intestines, and the remaining intestine were still rather dead, so she was given an ostomy bag. “Let me tell you what, it is not pretty,” she says. “That thing would break open and spill its contents all over my body at any given time. But it did make for a nice conversation piece.”
Fast forward through months of IVs full of TPN and lipids, some jaundice, and a chest port, Martella received her high school diploma and her parents were leaving her behind at Ohio University where she was enrolled as a journalism major at E.W. Scripps School of Journalism to pursue her dream of being a broadcast journalist.
A few more bumps on the long road to a healthy life and Martella found herself on the other side, promising herself to truly, fully live her life.
“I vowed to myself that I would go skydiving, that I would make every life dream I’ve ever imagined become a reality, that I would tell the ones I love that I love them and nothing would ever go unsaid, that I would go on vacations and not get so caught up with running or exercise,”she says. “I vowed that I would open my heart to find love and eventually get married. But most of all, I vowed to live. To enjoy life and to experience it moment by moment and not get so caught up in the logistics.”
And since Martell made that vow to herself, she hasn’t looked back.
“September 8th, 2008 could have been my last day here on this Earth, but I was blessed enough to get the opportunity of a second chance,” she says. “And you can bet I won’t let any of my life goals, dreams or wishes go unrealized. But more importantly, you can bet I will live and love and enjoy this beautiful gift of life we’ve all been blessed with, because trust me, I know all too well that it can be taken away from us in an instant.”
Along with the promises Martella made to herself, she also finds plenty of inspiration in the world around her as she navigates her day-to-day life.
She says that seeing people put themselves aside and go out of their way to make life easier for others is something that encourages and inspires her.
She’s also inspired by the freedom to do anything and everything we want to do or accomplish in life. “We are so blessed to be presented with endless opportunities, we might as well take advantage of that,” she adds.
Martella, like most people, says she also finds inspiration in her mom.
“This woman is the greatest human on Earth,” says Martella. “She truly is sunshine in human form. She’s always in a jolly mood and she always has a smile on her face. If you know Linda Lohrer, I can guarantee you agree with what I’m saying right now. She will drop what she’s doing at any given moment to be with anyone and everyone who needs help or guidance. She donates to countless numbers of causes because she has such a beautiful heart. She is just so selfless and so giving. I can only pray to be one-quarter of the woman she is some day. She is truly my best friend in the whole world and I am so proud to be her daughter.”
In addition to her work she does at WLWT, Martella does speaking engagements and outreach efforts, although COVID has put a damper on the in-person speaking world.
One of those outreach efforts is a 5-step model called the “Rise Up” model. “It’s proven to help people overcome extreme obstacles and seize opportunities,” she says. “I like to share this model with others, in hopes that it can help them as well.”
While COVID has halted in-person events, Martella says that she’s been able to utilize technology to do virtual speaking events and continue to share her story with others.
Additionally, Martella is on the Board of Directors for Make-A-Wish Ohio, Kentucky, and Indiana’s southern Ohio Region and, as a Wish Kid, she enjoys being able to sit on the board for an organization that also helped her.
To continue her outreach, Martella is launching a podcast with her friend Nicole Dambro. The podcast, she says, is geared toward breaking down any information barriers that people with chronic illness might experience and to help people know they are not alone.
“Ironically, Nicole has the same type of illness I have,” says Martella. “How we met was fate: She lives in LA, I live here in Cincinnati, and we were seated at the same table for a mutual friend of ours’ wedding a year and a half ago. We got to talking, and realized we deal with the same situation. We stayed in touch and through the last year and a half, we have both undergone emergency surgeries related to our illness.”
Martella credits Nicole with making it through some of her health obstacles this past spring, and appreciates the support system she has found in her friend. Those shared experiences inspired them to create the podcast “Girls With Guts Podcast.”
Martella says the podcast will be launching in the New Year and their Instagram page is currently available for you to stay tuned to for announcements.
You can find Martella on WLWT Channel 5 Monday through Friday from 4:30-7am.
“I work with some of the most talented and incredible people and journalists in the entire world,” says Martella. “They are such hard-working individuals. Though they are co-workers, they are also friends and family. I love the WLWT team so much and am so proud to be a part of it.”
To learn more about Martella, you can keep up with her on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter.