COME August 12, Karim Sulaiman, celebrates his 46th birthday. Which is just about a week from today. And he celebrates it with extra kilos to his weight - 50kg to be exact! In Dec last year, this award-winning journalist was only 35kg, and reducing.
Karim, as you may be aware, suffers from an extremely rare skin disease called scleromyxoedema. The disease makes his skin taut, stiffen his joints which makes eating solid food difficult and sometimes impossible. To date, medical scientists are still trying to find a cure for this ailment.
I spoke to him today after getting a text message from his wife, Siti Hawa. Siti Hawa had given me an update and she sounded happy and excited on the phone. When Karim came on the line, he was even more excited:
"Cik Mad! Alhamdulillah! I'm most thankful to Him for allowing me to continue to survive this far. I've gone for my sixth treatment at the Department of Dermatology at Hospital kuala Lumpur and the doctors have just been wonderful.
"They are going all out and have been very thorough in their examination. I have only Thank You to say to them!"
His voice is also a lot clearer and stronger. Last year, it was almost difficult to make out his words. One has to strain to try and make out what he was saying. Often, his wife had to intervene and translate his slurred speech.
Today, Karim moves about in the house more independently; he can climb stairs unaided; and is also able to climb the higher stairs in the mosque near his house much better and with less difficulty. He's also an avid Internet surfer.
I asked him if had seen his picture in the Berita Harian special supplement to mark it's 50th anniversary a few days ago. He said No, but he's heard about it. I suspect he no longer buys newspaper. Maybe Berita Harian should send him daily copies of the newspaper...
Three of Karim's children are in boarding school and each of them receive some financial support from the SP Setia Foundation chaired by Tan Sri Lee Lam Thye. Since Karim was still salaried, albeit only a half-month, each child can claim up to RM500 per year for their school expenses.
They can claim up to RM1,000 a year if Karim is no longer getting his salary. Siti Hawa is very grateful that many well-wishers have poured help to Karim and the family. They are just as grateful to everyone who offer doa and words of encouragement as they battle this hardship.
Karim's progress has been so encouraging and he's very eager to meet deputy health minister Datuk Dr Latif Ahmad, the person who helped facilitate his treatment at HKL. Maybe we can all drop in at his house and celebrate his 46th birthday together.