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San Clemente Journal

Carol Anderson Giving it All She’s Got

May 22, 2024 02:39PM ● By Anne Batty

Carol Anderson at South County Fitness.

by Anne Batty

It is said that there is no greater love than a love that would prompt someone to risk their life for a friend. If this is true, one can’t help but wonder what amount of love it might take for someone to risk their life for a stranger. For San Clementean and South County Fitness Owner/Instructor, Carol Anderson, the answer to that question is, “Why wouldn’t you?” 
Upon meeting and chatting with Carol it is immediately obvious that she is someone extraordinary. Her open, friendly manner warms the surroundings, seeming to say, “hi, so glad you came, c’mon in;” and as she shares her story you can’t help but feel like you are in the presence of someone you are glad to have met. 

But Anderson’s life journey hasn’t always been filled with sunshine and roses. “A native Californian I grew up in a less than desirable neighborhood in L.A.,” she shared. “I wasn’t taking my schooling seriously and knew I could easily go down the wrong path.”

In spite of those misgivings, at age 17 while still in high school Carol began feeling like she wanted to give something of herself to save others and decided that she would donate her blood. Loving the feeling she got from that act of giving, she continued to donate blood every chance she got. Through these donations she learned that in addition to being a universal donor (O negative) she was CMV negative as well (CMV is a cytomegalovirus sometimes contracted by newborns in pregnancy), and that her blood was being saved for babies and preemies that needed transfusions. So by the time she was in her 20s she was cheerfully donating her blood every eight weeks and continues doing so today. 

During those same years Anderson also realized that she needed to do something about where her young life was going, and decided to join the army. For the next six-years during her enlistment, she continued donating blood whenever she could. 

While serving that time in the military she met and married her husband of 29 years, Chad, and when they mustered out of the service the couple made their first home in the L.A. area. While living there Carol completed her education, earning a degree from Cal Poly, and for the next few years taught middle school. Loving teaching and being interested in health she also earned her certification as a Pilates teacher and began teaching individuals in her home. As their family and Anderson’s business grew, the duo upgraded homes and areas, moving to make their way toward the beach; finally settling in San Clemente with their two daughters, Siena (17 now a senior at SCHS) and Kylie (18 a student at Oregon State). With a strong work ethic and love for what she was doing, it wasn’t long before Carol expanded her business to include two studios, one at each end of town.  In the Fall of 2020, she happened to see a post on a Facebook mom’s group that would have a major effect on her life. A desperate mother was asking if anyone who had blood type O negative would be willing to be tested as a match for her daughter who was on the waitlist for a lifesaving, partial liver transplant. It seems the young woman needing the transplant was the mother of three very little ones. 

The Anderson Family; Kylie (18), Chad, Carol and Sienna (17).


“I had never considered live organ donation, but as a mom myself, I could only imagine the desperation of hoping for a liver match and knowing my daughter would die soon without one,” Carol explained, “so without further thought I immediately responded to the request and began the process to see if I might be a match.”

Anderson soon found that she had committed herself to a much lengthier process than she had imagined, but as she learned all about liver transplants and the great need for them, she was confident that she was definitely doing the right thing. Moving into pre-op testing, she was examined, scanned, probed and questioned by surgeons, psychiatrists, social workers, dieticians and nurses alike; all working in a concentrated effort to assure her health and safety as well as that of the recipient. During this time Carol continued teaching individual Pilates sessions in a little studio on S El Camino Real, and with lots of help from her husband opened a small group studio on Camino de Los Mares in June of 2023. 

   “Amidst all this testing, teaching and adding a new business, I was notified that the young mother’s case was closed; finding out later that she had received a liver from a deceased donor and was doing well,” Anderson revealed. “With that good news came the decision to just be happy for her, to move on with my life and to focus on growing my businesses.”
But for Carol, that wasn’t an option. She soon decided to continue with the testing, donate altruistically and hope her newest studio would survive her absence for a few weeks if she was ever selected. Without hesitation she began preparing, interviewing and hiring qualified teachers to handle the studio and classes should she become a donor. “I couldn’t have accomplished it all without this incredible group of women teaching classes and helping to keep my business going,” she emphasized.

Upon receiving approval by the surgical team at USC Keck Hospital in August of 2023 she was put on a list to donate the right lobe of her liver to an older teenager or an adult. (The left lobe of a liver being the area used for babies and children). Then came the wait for a match. 
“During the wait I encountered many people through my businesses as well as casually who had either worked for a transplant hospital, worked with transplant patients, were waiting for a transplant or had family and/or friends waiting for a transplant,” Anderson said. “All of these people shared their experiences with me and their appreciation for the donor that saved their loved one. Listening to their stories and experiences I began to feel that the universe was bringing people into my life to reinforce my decision to donate.”

At the end of 2023 Carol was notified that there was a need for her donation. The operation took place on December 18. The time for the operation to remove the necessary portion of her liver was 6 ½ hours, the recipient’s operation took 12 ½ hours. Both patients involved were a part of two teams of doctors, one for each. Carol’s team was responsible for removing a portion of the right lobe of her liver and delivering it immediately to the recipient’s team who delivered the liver and completed the transplant.

Although Anderson wasn’t allowed to know whether the receiver was male or female, it turns out they were in pre-op cubicles next to each other and she detected that the voice next to her was female. As it turns out, Carol’s recipient was also a mother of three and since receivers are allowed to contact the donor if they so desire, she and Anderson are keeping in touch.
At the time of this interview Anderson’s operation was just a few weeks old. She was so full of positivity and energy it was hard to believe she had just gone thru such an arduous ordeal, and when asked if after having gone through this process she would do it again, her response was … “Absolutely! Why wouldn’t you take the opportunity to save someone’s life?”
Disappointedly for Carol Anderson, giving a portion of your liver is only a one-time opportunity, but she did remark that if it weren’t for the fact that it would be such a burden on her husband, children and business, she sometimes thinks about the possibility of donating a kidney sometime in the future.

And in her words, “Why wouldn’t you?”

Facts about Liver Transplants
•  More than 1,400 people die each year waiting for a liver transplant.
•  Every 10 minutes another person is added to the transplant waiting list.
•  The liver is the only organ to fully regenerate.
•  As little as 30% of a liver can regrow to its original volume.
•  Within 6-8 weeks post-surgery a liver will be back to at least 90% its 
original size.
•  The liver is one of the largest organs in the human body and weighs
about three pounds. It produces proteins, carbohydrates and fats while
also storing vitamins from the foods ingested. It also plays an important
role in breaking down toxic substances in the body. 
•  A person can only survive a day or two in full liver failure.
•  More than 15,000 people in the US are currently waiting for a liver.
•  About 6,300 liver transplants are performed annually nationwide.
•  The national median wait time for a liver transplant is 15 months.
•  Only 60% of US adults are registered organ donors.
•  In 2022 there were 603 liver transplants from living donors.
•  The success rate of Living Donor Liver Transplants (LDTD) is 
approximately 90%.