Scleromyxoedema?Award-winning journalist Karim Sulaiman, 45, is dying at his home in Gombak. In 2000, the year before he won the coveted Hadiah Kajai for Berita Harian, doctors told him he was suffering from a rare disorder. He started suffering from migraines, high blood pressure, diabetes, difficulty in breathing, etc. "My body feels like it's on fire, Ky," he told me yesterday. From 2003, his physical appearance change dramatically. His good, boyish looks are totally gone. His speech is now slurred and he can't turn his head left or the right; if he tries to sit up straight, without support at the back of his head, his jaws will fall on to his chest. "His neck can't support his head," the wife said. She feeds and cleans him round the clock, and she also tends for their six schooling kids, the youngest is 9 and the eldest 17.
So Karim sits there on the sofa in the living room, everyday, wasting away. He used to weigh about 60 kg; now he is lighter than his youngest son. His mind is awake and alert, though. I asked him how long he's served Berita Harian. "I joined 12 December 1985. I've just completed 21 years of service. You are, what, six months my senior?" On the dot. I joined Business Times, another NSTP daily, in July the same year. Can't remember the exact date, though. "Ahmad Sebi, Nazri and Kadir interviewed me," he continued. "Kadir Jasin was garang (fierce)."
The Berita Harian special projects editor said on 9/11, the day they suspended the Weekend Mail, he was informed that the company had no choice but to place him on a 6-month's leave, to be followed by another 6 months of half-paid leave. By this time next year he will be living on Socso benefits. "If I live that long," he said. Six years on, the doctors can't say for sure what's killing Karim. I was told to google "papular mucinosis" to have an idea of what Karim is suffering from. "They told me it's an extremely rare disorder," his wife said.
Karim is not giving up hope. He says he is sure someone out there can tell him what exactly is wrong with him and what the cure is. "It's just a matter of finding that someone."
The exco of the National Press Club meets next week. We will work closely with Mior Kamarul Baid, one of Karim's ex-bosses at Berita Harian, and Pahit Manis (see his postings on Karim here and here) to see how we can be of help. We have raised funds for journalists in need before but what Karim needs now is help to find that expert who can give him the hope for a cure that he surely deserves.
I bring updates about this journalist in the days ahead. And I hope they'll be happy updates.