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Sarah Hyland On Her Second Kidney Transplant, Dialysis, and Living with a Chronic Illness
By her count, Sarah Hyland, 28, has had about 16 surgeries. Six in the past 16 months or so—including a second kidney transplant, laparoscopic surgery for endometriosis, and surgery to correct an abdominal hernia.
Her first kidney transplant from 2012 was already public knowledge—her dad gave her one of his when she was 21. But much of the rest of her health history is not. After a few years of occasionally referencing medical issues without going into specifics, she is ready to share more. I’m in Los Angeles to interview her about it.
We’re tucked away in a back booth on the patio of the Polo Lounge. Magenta bougainvillea dot the space, but tree trunks wrapped in fairy lights and a slight bite in the air hint at autumn. Many of the Polo Lounge’s diners are familiar enough to make my brain itch. Hyland fits right in, having become a household name years ago thanks to her role as Haley Dunphy on ABC’s Modern Family, the award-winning ensemble comedy that has been running for nearly a decade.
Our conversation, in many ways, is like any other conversation in which a writer (me) interviews a famous 20-something (her) for a celebrity profile (this one). We go to a fancy restaurant for an hour, and talk about the usual things that you’d expect from a story like this: career, love, family, body image, workouts, beauty routines. You know the drill—those mundane (yet somehow fascinating!) details of daily life for a normal celebrity with millions of Instagram followers.
In some important ways, though, this conversation is different. For Hyland, it is impossible to discuss the standard celebrity profile details without also discussing her lifetime of living with chronic illness, which has colored every facet of her life.
About that luminous career: When she started dialysis in February 2017, she chose a center near the Modern Family set, so she could more easily balance work and life. About that love: She met her current boyfriend in person for the first time just three days before undergoing a second kidney transplant in September 2017. About those beauty routines: She’s big into skin-care, and always trying out the newest beauty gadgets that might help with her facial swelling, a side effect of the medication she has to take for the rest of her life. Her health conditions don’t define her, of course. But they certainly have had an impact on the day-to-day.
As we talk, I keep noticing Hyland’s enormous eyes, framed in a fan of long, glorious lashes. Her large gold glasses magnify them, making them look even bigger. She reminds me of a woodland creature that has evolved to peak cuteness as a survival mechanism. I imagine David Attenborough narrating a nature show about life and death in an unforgiving landscape.
But being cute as hell and strong as hell aren’t mutually exclusive, an obvious fact that resonates more deeply the longer we talk. Hyland’s body has put her through the wringer, forcing her to confront her own lack of control and adjust her goals, expectations, relationships, and self-image to make space for her medical needs. Throughout it all, she has exhibited near-superhuman strength and perseverance. And yet, as Hyland points out, something she wishes more people would understand: “I’m just a human being.”
Hyland was born with kidney dysplasia, which essentially means her kidneys didn’t develop normally when she was in the womb. Kidney dysplasia causes your kidneys—those critical bean-shaped organs—to grow cysts. Those cysts can disrupt the kidneys from doing their job of filtering waste products out of your blood.
Some people with only one dysplastic kidney go on to have few, if any, health problems related to the condition. But Hyland’s kidney dysplasia was so severe that she went into kidney failure. Eventually, she needed a transplant. Her father donated one of his.
To the public, that was pretty much it: Hyland needed a kidney, her dad gave her one, case closed.
But here is what you don’t know.
In October 2016, Hyland’s body began to reject the kidney her father donated to save her life. “When you have an organ transplant, it’s basically a foreign thing in your body,” she explains. “Your immune system will want to attack it and be like, ‘What is this? This is not supposed to be here.’” She was overcome with fatigue, and experienced frequent fevers and infections. A visit to the doctor revealed that her level of the waste product creatinine, which your kidneys are meant to remove from your blood, was higher than it had been before the transplant.
“We did all of these tests and all of these treatments to try and save the kidney,” Hyland says. She shuttled in and out of the hospital for months. “Christmas break, New Year’s, Thanksgiving, my birthday, all of that spent in the hospital,” she says. None of the treatments took. Her medical team compared the transplanted kidney to a home that had caught on fire. As Hyland notes, “You can’t un-burn a house.”
On Valentine’s Day of 2017, Hyland went on dialysis, which is when a machine filters blood for you because your kidneys can’t. It was her first time on dialysis. This required implanting a device called a port into her chest to connect to the dialysis machine. The chest port was visible underneath Hyland’s skin, leading a lot of people to think she had an injury like a broken collar bone. Nope. Just the port. “I called it my tube titty,” Hyland says.
Dialysis was a life-saving slog; Hyland was hooked up to a machine three times a week for four hours per session. Her weight dropped, prompting invasive public speculation. She got sciatica (severe pain radiating from the lower back). Her face swelled up due to immunosuppressant drugs, and fluid retention caused her blood pressure to spike enough to damage her vision, which already wasn’t great.
Hyland responded to this new medical dependence by exerting her independence wherever she possibly could, such as by fitting in dialysis around her shooting schedule. Hence her choosing the dialysis center closest to the Modern Family set. “That’s why I’m so independent,” she says. “In some areas of my life, I literally have no choice but to be dependent. I’ve been going through this for 28 years, and I still am learning how to let go of control and how to be patient.”
‘Modern Family’s Nolan Gould Reveals Who He Thinks Will Get Married 1st: Ariel Winter Or Sarah Hyland?
Will Ariel Winter or Sarah Hyland walk down the aisle first? Their ‘Modern Family’ co-star, Nolan Gould, shared his prediction with HollywoodLife EXCLUSIVELY, and our sources agree!
Are those wedding bells Nolan Gould‘s hearing? The Modern Family star, 20, dished on his co-stars, Sarah Hyland and Ariel Winters‘, relationships during an EXCLUSIVE interview with HollywoodLife at the iHeartRadio Jingle Ball on Nov. 30. Obviously, both Sarah and Ariel have been dating their respective boyfriends, Wells Adams and LeviMeaden, for quite some time, so we had to ask Nolan who he thinks will get married first, and he had quite the prediction! “If I had to guess, I would say — this is probably going to go viral — I would say Sarah. She’s just a little older and she’s just at that place in her life. Not that Ariel isn’t. She’s super happy and super mature, but I think Sarah may be a little bit older to make those decisions,” he revealed before adding, “I know [she and Wells are] really happy. I’ve known her for 10 years — It’s been a while since I’ve seen her like this. Yeah, it would be awesome. They can go start a modern family of their own!”
Interestingly, our sources agree! HollywoodLife recently learned — EXCLUSIVELY — that friends are convinced the Bachelor In Paradise star, 34, and his lady love, 28, will be getting engaged soon! “Sarah and Wells have the most amazing relationship, it’s the healthiest and most nurturing one she’s ever had, and Wells is such a supportive and loving boyfriend,” a source close to Sarah told us. “For the first time in her life Sarah can actually envision herself settling down and getting married. Sarah can even see herself starting a family with Wells.”
“Sometimes she really can’t believe she’s met somebody so beautiful and loving, and it’s only since she started truly loving herself that she’s been able to accept somebody like Wells into her life. Sarah and Wells have discussed the issue of marriage, it’s definitely on the cards at some point in the future, and all their friends are betting on a proposal happening before the end of next year,” our source continued.
So it sounds like Nolan many be onto something! And if he, and our sources, are correct, could we please get an invite? Sarah and Wells’ wedding would be so fun!
Sarah and Wells have been dating for a little over a year now, and Ariel, 20, and actor Levi, 31, have been dating for two!
10×08 ‘Kids These Days’ / 10×10 ‘Stuck in the Moment’
So many news of Modern Family Season 10! Glad to share the press release of tomorrow’e episode ‘Kids These Days‘:
Haley needs a little motherly advice from Claire as she considers her future with Dylan and her career. Meanwhile, Jay and Cam’s less than politically correct coaching style earns them a class on sensitivity from Manny and Phil; and Mitch runs into Phil’s nemesis, Gil.
Also I can already share the press release of 10×10 ‘Stuck in a Moment‘ with ya’ll:
Haley wants to give the family a Christmas gift they will never forget if she can just figure out the perfect time. Meanwhile, Claire is mad that Phil has once again borrowed the family Christmas tree for a house-showing; and Jay, Gloria and Joe have to deal with some unwelcome visitors over the holidays
Today marks a special day, it’s Sarah’s birthday! It’s the first time Sarah Hyland Web can celebrate this special day with our little special someone. To celebrate the person that inspired me in so many ways I’d like to share a little personal story and a short birthday message for Sarah and everyone who wants to read it.
Some may know that my name is Sarah as well. I hated that name for a long time. It’s like nothing special to me since so many people are called Sarah. It’s nothing unique. When I first watched Modern Family and discovered Haley, who did remind me of myself a lot of times, I also found out who Sarah is. I literally fell in love with her right away. Many celebrities you see show off how extra they are, what they can do what we can’t do. Sarah on the other hand always shows off her actual side which makes her so relateable and real. She didn’t shut down and stay quiet when she didn’t feel well, she opened up about abusement and sickness a lot of times, she helps women/men in need a lot. I never felt proud of myself or my name but when I found out who Sarah Jane Hyland is I started loving having this name. I, myself, am suffering from mental illness and I do can relate to Sarah in so many ways. Yet no matter how hard life was it wasn’t ever able to bring her down. One of the many reasons why she’s so wonderful. Let me continue with a little birthday message specificly for Sarah:
you may now read how I started seeing who you are and why I do love you as much as I do. Yet there’s more to it. You’re kind, loving and just inspirational in your special way. You walk through life with so much joy and kindness, I can’t even describe how proud I am of you. You talk about things most people would rather never talk about since they feel uncomfortable about it. You are the voice this generation needed and finally got. You say what you’re thinking about, you don’t mind people sharing other opinions. You respect people and critizes them on a level most people would take as an assault but you actually, even if the person is just rude and disrespectful, stay true to yourself and step upon them with respect and care. Haters and tabloids can’t bring you down, neither people or any sickness in the world can break the wonderful person you are. I do believe that sometimes you don’t know how much impact you’ve got on young people like me. But believe me, every little step you take, every thing you say is what we look up to. No pressure of course! You’re human and even if you make mistakes, and we all do these little things we reegret every now and then, you’re human and you are loved. I started this fansite early 2018 to support you even more since I felt like just having a “fan account on Twitter” wasn’t enough. I wanted to start something bigger, to keep people updated on your wonderful actions and to let people see how inspiring and wonderful you truly are. You have inspired me to continue being myself, to stand up for what I believe in. In therapy my therapist wanted me to write down people who inspired me and you were the one that came to my mind at first. Running a fansite means you need to be dedicated to the person and to the work behind it. To be really honest with you, this isn’t some kind of work, I do this with love, pleasure and honor. I never felt forced to update people, I never felt like someone was telling me to stop or continue right now, do to this or that. I do this for myself, I do this to show you my personal love and appreciation in my personal special way. This message may be a little longer than I thought but I really wanted to let you know how much you mean to me – and also to so many other people. Now, dear Sarah, have a wonderful birthday. Surround yourself with the ones you love the most and remember to never give up. Celebrate yourself, you deserve it more than anybody else. 💕
Lots of love, Sarah
Sarah hosted a wonderful Thanksgiving (tho, as she shared via Instagram, she didn’t take any photos). All that matters is that she had a good time. On November 21st she was seen picking up the last needs from a grocery store.