And when she arrived home from the hospital, there was yet another blessing — a community effort to raise funds for her medical expenses.
As her classmates busied themselves by selling fund-raising bracelets and T-shirts at Pascack Valley High School on her April 20 birthday, Lans mused that she had a lot to celebrate.
"My recovery went a lot better than expected … and I'm just amazed at all the fund-raising activities my school and community have arranged for me.
"I'm so thankful," Lans said. "I've been celebrating my birthday non-stop since March 13, when I received the greatest gift I'll ever get — my new liver!"
In a schoolwide quest that evolved into a boroughwide mission, Shayna and her friends designed and sold T-shirts and bracelets to raise money for the fund. Some students performed a rock concert at the school, with all proceeds going to Caleigh's fund.Lans' doctors estimate that over her lifetime her medical expenses will be roughly $85,000. When her sister Shayna heard that, she spread the word among her classmates.
The trend caught on. Pascack Valley High School donated 10 percent of the profits from school lunches, and the local Girl Scout Troop pitched in by using money from its cookie sales to buy gift certificates for her and her family.
A group of 13-year-old girls held a birthday party for Lans, and instead of gifts they collected $3,000. A fund-raising dinner sponsored by the Children's Organ Transplant Association will be held at the Florentine Gardens on May 4. The Cops Dodgeball fund-raising tournament is scheduled for June 12.
So far, all the efforts have brought in roughly $38,000.
Lans' mother, Nancy, choked up as she marveled over the display of altruism.
"It seems like everywhere I go, people ask how she is doing. Even people I don't know stop me to ask about her and tell me they heard about Caleigh from someone else in town.
"This town has embraced Caleigh in a way that is impossible to describe — the schools, the police department, sports groups, Girl Scouts, local merchants," she said.
For much of her life, Caleigh was a perfectly healthy child. She loved playing soccer and was a great bowler. Then, in the summer of 2007, at age 13, she got sick. It took her parents a while to understand what was going on.
"The major symptom seemed to be itchiness," recalled her mother. "I had no idea then that it was the hallmark symptom for liver disease. But it was."
Every time Caleigh went to the doctor, he asked if the family had changed laundry detergents. They put her on anti-itch cream. The puzzled doctors referred her to psychologists and to dermatologists.
After several months of frustration, Lans' parents took her to the emergency room at Hackensack University Medical Center, where doctors examined her blood, administered a battery of tests and diagnosed her illness as liver disease.
Two years later, she was put high on the list for a transplant. Everyone in the family was tested to see whether they could be a donor but nobody was a match. The family was told that a phone call could come at any time to say a match had been found.
Last month, the call came. The family drove through a storm to get to the hospital in time.
"Her recovery has been amazing. I thank the donor family for giving our family life. It's such a blessing for us," her mother said. "We are trying to get the word out about organ donation and how important it is. We can never thank the donor's family enough. They turned their tragedy into something wonderful for us."