The Lions Step In
Not knowing where else to turn, Kempen found help from Lions, who are known for their work to combat preventable blindness around the world. His mother in Wisconsin contacted her local Lions club, which worked with the Lions of Wisconsin, Lions Clubs International and Lions in Jordan to arrange for Zahraa to fly to the USA to be evaluated at the Eye Clinic of Wisconsin. When doctors discovered Zahraa would need two corneal transplants, Lions explained the situation to the Lions Eye Bank of Wisconsin and Aspirus Wausau Hospital, who agreed to donate the corneas and surgeries. Zahraa underwent two successful corneal transplants, one in each eye.
“When Zahraa arrived in the USA, she could barely make out the large ‘E’ on the eye chart. Today she can see the fourth line and her vision will continue to improve over time as the cornea tissue swelling goes down,” said Dr. Kevin Flaherty, who donated his services to operate on Zahraa. Following the surgeries, Zahraa’s vision began to clear at a rapid pace. After spending approximately two months in the USA, Zahraa was flown back to her homeland, where she could finally attend school with the other local children. “She will go to school. She will play with other kids. She will turn a corner. … This is a miracle,” said Zahraa’s grandmother Bushra.
This project was very popular with news media in the USA and was featured nationally on “Good Morning America” and “ABC World News.” In appreciation of Sergeant Kempen’s compassion and action, Lions Clubs International President Al Brandel presented him with the International Order of the Lion.