Sarah Hyland may be best known for her role on Modern Family, but it’s her off-screen life that is currently making news. In a recent interview with Self, Hyland opened about battles with chronic illness — including undergoing a second kidney transplant — and how it affected her mental health.
Hyland was born with kidney dysplasia, a condition that, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, occurs when one or both of a fetus’ kidneys do not develop normally while in the womb. And since the kidneys are responsible for flushing urine (and toxins) from the body, an issue with the organ can result in serious health concerns.
Many people with kidney dysplasia need dialysis and/or a transplant.
Hyland needed both. In 2012, she received a transplant from her father after undergoing kidney failure. Then in October 2016, her body began to reject the donor kidney.
“When you have an organ transplant… your immune system will want to attack it,” Hyland told the magazine — and that is what her body did.
As a result, she experienced chronic fatigue, fevers and infections.
Even after her doctors ran plenty of tests and tried various treatments to try to save the kidney, nothing worked.
On Valentine’s Day of 2017, Hyland began dialysis.
The good news is dialysis kept Hyland afloat. By undergoing treatment three to four times a week, the young actor was able to continue with both work and life. But Hyland quickly learned dialysis wasn’t going to be a long-term solution.
She would need undergo another operation, then undergo another transplant.
Fortunately, Hyland’s younger brother, Ian Hyland, was a match. But the emotional trauma from Sarah Hyland’s first transplant (and subsequent rejection) was overwhelming.
“I was very depressed,” she told Self. “When a family member gives you a second chance at life, and it fails, it almost feels like it’s your fault. It’s not. But it does.” As such, Hyland admits she became suicidal.
“I had gone through [my whole life] of always being a burden, of always having to be looked after, having to be cared for,” she explained, adding “I didn’t want to fail my little brother like I failed my dad.”
Of course, organ rejection is not the donor’s or recipient’s fault, nor is it a personal failure or shortcoming — as transplanted organs do not last forever. We completely understand Hyland’s reaction; to go through so much so young must be extremely difficult. But Hyland isn’t dwelling on the past. She told the magazine, “I’m stable. I’m thriving. I’m super happy with life,” and for that, we are happy too.
To learn more about organ donation, visit OrganDonor.gov and/or Donate a Life.