‘I get a third chance at life:’ Detroit nurse receives second kidney transplant from cousin

March is National Kidney Month

A Detroit nurse is in need of a life-saving kidney transplant. It turns out, she didn’t need to look far to get it. “I get a third chance at life now because I’ve already had my second chance,” said Martha Stella. Stella got her second chance at life a little more than 10 years ago. “I was born with a genetic disease called polycystic kidney disease and progressively when I turned 17, I had found out I had kidney failure. It was like two days before my prom,” Stella said.

DETROIT – A Detroit nurse is in need of a life-saving kidney transplant -- and as it turns out, she didn’t need to look far to get it.

Detroit’s Martha Stella is getting a second chance -- wait, scratch that -- a third chance at life. Stella got her second chance at life a little more than 10 years ago.

“I was born with a genetic disease called polycystic kidney disease and progressively when I turned 17, I had found out I had kidney failure. It was like two days before my prom,” Stella told Megan Woods. From there, she went on dialysis and at the age of 20, got a kidney transplant from a deceased donor. She has six aunts and uncles who have the same disease -- three of them have had transplants.

“I was told with deceased donor kidneys, they last about 10 to 15 years. With living donors, it’s a little longer, or sometimes up to 30 years or more. So I always knew in the back of my mind that I would need another transplant,” Stella said.

That’s where her cousin Christine Burnsfield comes in, she wanted to help Stella the first time she needed a kidney.

“A lot of times you know, when someone you love or are close to is sick or has something bad happened to them, you’re like, ‘Oh, I’m so sorry. If there’s anything I can do, please let me know.’ And being able to do this, it’s like, I can do something,” Burnsfield said. They were already close, but this surgery brings them even closer.

“It’s really important to me that she gets to have a chance to live as normal and as fulfilling of a life as she possibly can,” said Burnsfield.

She hopes their family’s story will inspire people to give what they can to others that are in similar situations whether that’s organs, blood, or plasma.

Stella said, “It just means the world to me that my family, even my cousins will be able to donate something so precious to me, even on the second time around.”

Stella’s surgery was March 2, at Henry Ford Hospital in Detroit. It’s the same hospital where she works as a liver transplant nurse. Her goal is to continue showing her patients that you can live a long life after surgery.

Read: More organ donation coverage


About the Author:

Megan Woods is thrilled to be back home and reporting at Local 4. She joined the team in September 2021. Before returning to Michigan, Megan reported at stations across the country including Northern Michigan, Southwest Louisiana and a sister station in Southwest Virginia.