Randy Karim - a longtime mechanic for the City of Manteca’s fleet of vehicles - is preparing for a bone marrow transplant Friday in his fight against a “nasty” form of Leukemia.
Karim and Manteca Police officer Stephen Dowswell were both the focus of a bone marrow registry drive that was held at the end of 2011 in the city council chambers.
Dowswell’s match was found in one of two countries, either Australia or Germany. Identification of the donors must be kept confidential for at least a year.
Karim had three positive matches from family members who were ready to share their bone marrow with him in an effort to save his life. One was his wife Maria and the second was his sister Barbara and the third was his brother Steven who lives back East.
Dowswell was stricken in June and Karim in September when he complained of being tired all the time. He said he would get up from a full night of sleep and feel like he hadn’t had a rest at all. He went from doctor to doctor for a diagnosis.
Karim talked on the phone Thursday evening. He said he was being prepared for the surgery with radiation treatments for the transplant that would take place this week.
He moved to an apartment in the city last Friday. The much loved mechanic said that he has been in the hospital more than he has been out since he contracted the illness at the end of the summer.
“The guys at work have helped out tremendously. They have been with me every step of the way. They have been collecting bottles and cans and they take my vehicles and work on them and don’t charge me a dime,” Karim added.
He said he has lost a lot of weight from the Leukemia – at least 50 pounds. When he had to call for help a while back one of the firemen didn’t recognize him. He pointed out to him that he was his old mechanic.
“I am going through a little bit of hell right now, but I’m making it and I have the power to survive,” he insisted.
The 55-year-old city mechanic said he had no choice but to retire from his job adding that the guys still call him all the time. He said he could not let the guys just hang short staffed without him for five months.
“It has been a pure blessing when they tell me I have no idea how much I am missed around the shop. I miss it too – it’s taking a toll on me more than ever,” he said.
He thanked Mike Boyd for being a “standing stone” for him at the city’s vehicle maintenance shop.
“I was passing by the new maintenance shop that is going up the other day and it brought a tear to my eye, but I got to talk to Byron, John, Rick, Mike and Al,” he noted.
Karim said he and his wife and sister had to rent a place to stay close to the hospital to be near enough to return within 15 minutes, should he relapse after the marrow transplant. The one bedroom apartment with utilities cost them $2,400 a month, where his wife and his sister plan to share the duties of caring for him for the 100 days required to recover.
Karim has had three separate chemotherapy treatments with the second one nearly killing him, he said. They wanted to start radiation immediately after the chemotherapy, but his body was too frail and it had to be put off a week, he said.
The third chemo series was for five days over 24 hours a day. That took the wind out of his sails, he said with a sigh. He went to the hospital twice after that, once for 10 days and later for three days.
“At Stanford right now, but when I am at home I can’t have any visitors. My immune system is gone. When I’m here they put my body in turmoil. Every day my (blood) counts are going down from the radiation. Every day they do this I feel worse, and worse and worse. I have another week of them knocking me down again,” he said, in preparation for the transplant.
He and his wife and sister have had to attend numerous classes at Stanford to better understand the procedure they will handle together as a team. Both have taken leaves of absence from their jobs and have been in support of him full time already for the last five to six months.
“There are a lot of nice people out there,” Karim said of the Manteca community, “people who have donated blood and marrow. I was really touched.”
Randy and his wife Maria have two children, Randy Jr., 9, and Natalie, 13, both in Manteca schools.
Karim was born in French Camp and went to East Union High School graduating in 1974. He played football and soccer first at Golden West Elementary School and then at East Union where his freshman team was undefeated in football.
To make blood donations in Karim’s name, contact Blood Source at 916-456-1500.