The 28-year-old Modern Family star coversSelf’s latest digital issue and reveals that she’s had not just one, but two kidney transplants. Additionally, within the last year, Hyland has continued to suffer from endometriosis and an abdominal hernia, requiring two surgeries back to back. Including those surgeries, Hyland has gone under the knife about 16 times in her life.
In 2012, a then 21-year-old Hyland received her first kidney transplant -- a necessity as a result of kidney dysplasia, a disorder she was born with -- from her dad. All was relatively well until October 2016 when her body began rejecting its new kidney, causing fatigue, fever and infections.
“We did all of these tests and all of these treatments to try and save the kidney,” Hyland tells the magazine. “Christmas break, New Year's, Thanksgiving, my birthday, all of that spent in the hospital.”
The tests and treatments were unsuccessful, though, as the damage was too far gone. “You can't un-burn a house,” Hyland explains.
As a last resort, Hyland had to go on dialysis. The new treatment -- three four-hour sessions a week that caused weight loss, sciatica, swelling and worsening vision -- required a visible port to be implanted in her chest. “I called it my tube t*tty,” Hyland says.
Through it all she kept working, even selecting a dialysis center nearest the Modern Family set, something that she says allowed her to keep a modicum of independence.
“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.”
In May 2017, the rejected kidney was removed and a new donor was acquired -- Hyland’s younger brother, Ian, who was determined to help out his sister.
“I’m about as stubborn as Sarah once I’ve made up my mind,” her 23-year-old brother tells the magazine. “I probably would have insisted on donating even if I wasn’t a match.”
On Monday, Hyland's brother took to Twitter to share how proud he is of his sister. The younger Hyland also offered to give advice to anyone considering donating a kidney.
"Proud of you, sis. You are one hell of a warrior. @Sarah_Hyland," he wrote. "And if anyone is considering donating a kidney and needs some advice or an honest disclosure, feel free to dm me. (Full disclosure though, i am infamous for not responding🙈)"
The actress was touched by her brother's offer, retweeting the message and writing, "My amazing, selfless little brother ❤️"
The kidney failure and upcoming second surgery made Hyland herself feel like a failure, so much so that she contemplated suicide.
“I was very 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,” she tells the magazine. “For a long time, I was contemplating suicide, because I didn't want to fail my little brother like I failed my dad. I had gone through [my whole life] of always being a burden, of always having to be looked after, having to be cared for.”
“My work is my therapy. I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for my work,” Hyland says of getting through the tough time. "I'm so grateful for my entire family, especially my brother, especially my dad, especially my mom.”
Another thing that helped with her healing process was her then-new boyfriend, Wells Adams. About one month before undergoing the second transplant in September 2017, Hyland and Adams began chatting online. She didn’t reveal her health struggles to the radio DJ, assuming that nothing would come of the flirtation thanks to distance.
“Then I started to really, really like the dude,” she admits of the former Bachelorette contestant.
“We met each other for the first time three days before my transplant,” Hyland reveals. “He was texting me in the morning before I went into surgery, and we were FaceTiming the entire time I was in the hospital.”
For Hyland, she feels “the most beautiful” in Adams’ eyes, since he has seen her at her worst.
“He was there through all of that. I think that's why I feel the most beautiful in his eyes, because he still finds me beautiful after seeing all that,” she says, referring to her tough recovery. “It was a really intimate start to a relationship to have to go through those hurdles at the very, very, very beginning when you're just even getting to know a person.”
“Also, falling in love with someone before you can really be intimate. I did not believe that that was a thing, but it is,” Hyland adds.
In an emotional video posted to YouTube by Self, Hyland breaks down in tears while telling her story and showing off the array of scars that cover her stomach, even comparing some of the marks to "a Samurai sword or a shark bite."
With the support of her family, friends, co-workers and boyfriend, Hyland is ready to face life head on, despite her health conditions.
“My name is Sarah. I have two of the most amazing dogs in the entire world. I have the best boyfriend ever, who has the third-most amazing dog in the entire world,” she quips. “I have the greatest family one could ask for. I'm on a show that is absolutely unbelievable and surreal. Oh, and also, I was born wrong. Physically. In a way that's not good for your body to keep going.”
“Oh, and also, I have endometriosis. Oh, and also, I have kidney failure. Oh, and also, I'm a two-time kidney recipient. Oh, and also, I had a frickin' hernia for almost a year that went unnoticed,” she continues. “That list doesn't stop. But that list doesn't hold me back from anything. I won't let it.”
Watch the video below for more on Hyland and Adams: