‘Modern Family’ Star’s Health and Body Shaming Troubles

by Michele R. Berman, MD, and Mark S. Boguski, MD, PhD

Sarah Hyland navigates kidney disease and haters on the internet.

Sarah Hyland, who plays the eldest daughter Haley Dunphy on the award-winning comedy series “Modern Family,” just revealed in an article in Self that she underwent a second kidney transplant last year. The 28-year-old Hyland was born with congenital kidney dysplasia that was severe enough to require a kidney transplant in 2012. The donor was her dad.

Unfortunately, in October 2016, Hyland’s body began to reject the transplanted kidney. She experienced severe fatigue, frequent fevers and infections and her serum creatinine climbed higher than it was before the transplant. Despite multiple hospital admissions and treatments, they were unable to rescue the kidney, and in February 2017 she started dialysis. Because Hyland was tethered to a dialysis machine for four hours per session, three days a week, she picked a dialysis center close to the “Modern Family” set, so she could arrange her shooting schedule around her treatments.

Her body underwent a dramatic transformation. She lost a lot of weight, but her face was swollen due to the immunosuppressant medications. In May 2017, she became the victim of bodyshamers who accused her of promoting anorexia. But Sarah fought back, tweeting:

“I have been told that I can’t work out. Which, for me, is very upsetting. I love to be STRONG (I’ll be using that word a lot). Strength is everything. Being strong has gotten me where I am. Both mentally and physically. I am not a fan of ‘being skinny’… I don’t mind when you say that I look pregnant. Or fat. Because I know that my face is swollen from my medication that is saving my life. For those on Prednisone I know what you’re going through, and I commend you sticking it out as I have.”

Later that month, her transplanted kidney was removed, and a second transplant was enabled by her brother Ian, 23, as the donor. Nevertheless, Sarah became depressed: “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. For a long time, I was contemplating suicide, because I didn’t want to fail my little brother like I failed my dad.”

Talking about her thoughts helped her and she encourages others to do likewise. “It’s not shameful,” she says. “For anybody that wants to reach out to somebody but doesn’t really know how because they’re too proud or they think that they’ll be looked upon as weak, it’s not a shameful thing to say. It’s not a shameful thing to share.”

She underwent her second kidney transplant in September 2017. She’s doing well with her immunosuppressive drugs regimen. Hyland also suffers from endometriosis and has undergone six surgeries in the past 16 months to treat it.


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