On "Modern Family," Sarah Hyland portrays Haley, a boy-crazy teen who's most worried about the relationship with her on-again, off-again boyfriend and whether she'll get into college. But in real life, the 21-year-old actress has quietly been dealing with a medical issue that make those problems seem, well, quite small. As she reveals exclusively to Seventeen magazine in a new interview, Hyland's fought a lifelong battle with kidney dysplasia, a condition in which a baby's kidneys don't develop properly in the womb. In early April, she received a kidney transplant from her father, actor Edward James Hyland. "I have a second chance at life, not a lot of people get that," she tells the mag in her first interview about the transplant.
Hyland is particularly grateful for the lessons she's learned from all of this. The greatest, she says, are that "You know that family is always going to be there for you — no matter what. My dad gave me a freakin' kidney!" Hyland explains. "But it's also the families that you create outside of your family. And you really find out what kind of people you're friends with. It was just amazing, and it really opened my eyes to see who's there for me and who's not." Someone who's certainly been there for the New York City native in this particularly trying time is her boyfriend since 2009 that she now lives with, "High School Musical 3" actor Matt Prokop. "He helps me with my medication and takes me to doctor appointments and all the stuff that I need to do to take care of myself," Hyland notes. "Any other 21-year-old guy would not be there, I guarantee it. I am one of the luckiest people in the world to have him be there for me."
Since "Modern Family" wrapped for the season in March, Hyland's had a break — which is probably exactly what she needs after such an operation. Still, a few remnants of the episode linger. "My taste buds are really off right now because of the medication I'm on," she admits. "I'm usually obsessed with Arnold Palmers, but I don't really care for them right now. Everyone around me is like, 'whaaat?'" And, of course, there are the memories of all the support she received. "There are people who came out of the woodwork, not because it was 'oh hey, congratulations on your show winning an Emmy.' No it was, 'hey, I'm here for you.'"
Now Hyland wants to be there for someone else. She's involved with George Lopez's Lopez Foundation, which offers assistance to "underprivileged children, adults, and military families confronting challenges in education and health," and is dedicated to "increasing community awareness about kidney disease and organ donation," according to its website. The foundation sends kids to camp, collects toys, and holds other events to raise money for the little ones. "I think it's really great," Hyland says, "because it gives kids opportunities they wouldn't normally have and I've had experiences like that in my life, so it's really close to my heart."
Read more about Hyland in the June/July issue of Seventeen, on newsstands May 15.