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“I don’t see myself that way,” she says. “Mother Theresa was an inspiration to me growing up. But this is not about me or about my success. It’s about God’s work.”

Ms. Zema and her brother might disagree.

On a post-operation visit at the clinic, a radiant Ms. Zema sports her scarfless and keloidless head and her new earlobes, courtesy of well-known area plastic surgeon Al Fleury, also a friend of Sister Dede.

“Oh my God,” she says. “I’m so, so happy,” she says, a slight quiver in her lower lip.

Adds her brother Mr. Zema of Sister Dede: “She’s working miracles.”