Sarah, now 32, was born with kidney dysplasia, a condition that has led her to have over 16 surgeries. These include two kidney transplants — one when she was 21, from her dad, and a second five years later from her brother, after the first failed.
Last year, Sarah opened up in depth about how being on dialysis before she had her second transplant left her “exhausted all the time” and without any “kidney function at all.”
“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 on the Quitterspodcast.
“There are some episodes of Modern Family where I do not remember filming because I was asleep. Dead-ass asleep,” she said.
“I was not able to be awake for eight hours at a time. I was so exhausted all the time,” she explained, noting that she was only able to stay awake from the very moments scenes began and finished shooting. “I’d be on the set, we’d be filming, I’d be dead asleep, my head on the table, I would hear, ‘and...’ and my head would go up.”
Last month, Sarah shed a little more light on her experience shooting Modern Family while dealing with the impacts of her kidney dysplasia during a candid appearance on her costar Jesse Tyler Ferguson’s podcast, Dinner’s on Me.
Opening up further about how she doesn’t remember shooting many of the episodes, Sarah told Jesse that she was always focused on “surviving.”
“I don’t remember a lot of filming, because I was always focused on essentially just surviving and knowing my lines and being there 100% when they yelled action — and then immediately collapsing when they yelled cut,” she shared.
She and Jesse went on to recall a specific day that they were shooting a scene that involved her pushing a car. Jesse begins, “I remember a day when we were shooting — I don’t remember the specifics of the scene, and you might not remember it because I think you were in an intense amount of pain that day — but we were pushing a car?”
In response, Sarah revealed that she actually had gout in her foot at the time, which meant that she had to use crutches on set.
“I was on dialysis, I had gout. It was wild,” she said, before later explaining that she got gout after being put on medication for retaining too much water.
Then, Sarah revealed that despite being in the “most excruciating pain,” the Modern Family producers “insisted” that she film the scene in high heels.
“They put me in high heels,” she said. “They had not established my outfit yet, and they insisted that I was wearing heels.”
Elsewhere on the podcast, Sarah recalled feeling supported by Jesse on set, and thanked him for always looking out for her.
“I remember there was a day on set... I think I was in rejection on dialysis, and I was just in an extreme amount of pain,” she said.
Explaining that “there wasn’t enough time” to go back to her trailer in between takes, Sarah said, “But I also could barely move. So I found a little corner, I sat in a chair...and I was just kind of curled up into a ball.”
Sarah told Jesse, “You came up to me and very lightly touched me on the shoulder... You were just like, ‘Can I get you anything? Is there anything you need? I’m here for you.’”
“I just want to let you know how appreciative I am for that, ‘cause I know in the moment, I was probably very cold in that place,” she said, before explaining that she often “ignored” the extent of her pain in a bid to distract herself from it.
Noting that she has a “workhorse mentality,” which she said she gets from her parents, Sarah went on, “You don’t know when the next job is going to be, and if you don’t work hard and if you complain, you get the boot. So for me, if I ignored how I felt.”
And Sarah added that while this mentality was “most definitely not healthy,” it was “the only way” she knew how to deal with the pain.
You can listen to Sarah’s full appearance on Jesse’s podcast, Dinner’s on Me, here.