Modern Family star Sarah Hyland has shared her struggles with kidney dysplasia over the years, and now she’s sharing more about how living with the condition has affected her. In an episode of Julie Bowen’s podcast Quitters, released on Monday, Hyland sat down for a heartfelt chat with her former on-screen mom. The 31-year-old, who played Haley Dunphy on the beloved ABC series, revealed that her condition left her feeling completely exhausted during the sitcom’s run.
“There are some episodes of Modern Family where I do not remember filming because I was asleep,” Hyland said. The episode where her character asks her younger brother Luke for cash is one she has no recollection of, for example. “The entire episode I was asleep,” she said. “It was right before my first transplant…You have to [be] a certain level of sick in order to receive a transplant. So I was reaching that certain level of sick. I was not able to be awake for, like, eight hours at a time. I was so exhausted all the time.”
Kidney dysplasia is a condition in which the internal structures of one or both of a fetus’ kidneys develop abnormally inside the womb, according to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases (NIDDK). As a result, urine collects inside the malfunctioning kidney and then turns into cysts (fluid-filled sacs) which replace healthy kidney tissue and stop the kidney from functioning effectively. This condition is a chronic kidney disease. In the U.S., 15% of adults, or 37 million people, are estimated to have chronic kidney disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
With her father as the donor, Hyland underwent her first kidney transplant in 2012. Unfortunately, it failed, and her body rejected the organ, which she first publicly shared in her December 2018 SELF cover story. She had to remain on dialysis, a medical process during which a machine filters waste, salt, and fluid from the blood when the kidneys cannot, the Mayo Clinic explains. “When I was on dialysis, I was in rejection, needing a new kidney, and they had taken my dad’s one out because it was causing too many issues. I didn’t really have any kidney function at all,” she said in the episode. Her body’s rejection of the organ led to one of the darkest periods of her life. “My dad’s kidney had already failed, I was on dialysis… that’s where I felt suicidal,” Hyland said. With her brother Ian as the donor, Hyland eventually underwent a second transplant in 2017. Fortunately, it was a success.
Bowen noted that she remembered Hyland going through these health struggles, saying she would see Hyland doubled over in pain during series filming. Despite this, she remembers her on-screen daughter maintaining a professional attitude, for which she commended her. Hyland also reflected on being in an industry that demanded so much of her, which was doubly challenging as she was growing up and facing chronic pain as a result of her kidney condition. “When you have grown up your entire life having health issues and always essentially being in pain, you have to learn how to have thick skin, put on a show, put on a smile in front of everybody,” she said. While Bowen was incredibly proud of Hyland for her determination and grit, she was sympathetic as well. “You had to climb a mountain,” she told Hyland.
If you’re thinking about hurting yourself or need someone to talk to, you can seek support by calling the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255) or by texting HOME to 741-741, the Crisis Text Line. And here is a list of international suicide helplines if you’re outside the U.S.