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Saipan Tribune: NMC graduate needs a new heart

Raymond Franklin Masga Nakazato just graduated from the Northern Marianas College with a degree in Natural Resources Management in May.

Yet a moment that should have been full of hope and optimism came with a blow: Nakazato, who is in his early 20s, is now in need of a heart transplant and needs it immediately as his health is deteriorating every day.

Nakazato has a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy. It is when the heart’s ability to pump blood is compromised because the main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, is enlarged and weakened.

Nakazato’s aunt, Caroline Agulto, said that they are sharing Raymond’s story with a hope that their family can get help from the community.

“As there is no cardio specialist on Saipan, Raymond is currently confined [at the] Guam Regional Medical City and we need to fly him to the U.S. mainland to get the process of a heart transplant to start. He can’t fly on a regular flight… we need an air ambulance with a doctor and nurse beside him.”

His family has done the research and were dismayed to find out that it is very costly to be transported on an air ambulance.

“Our goal is to get him to a hospital in the mainland because getting a heart transplant is not easily available here…it takes time…We want him to be on his way to the mainland to get treated because it’s a process and his heart keeps deteriorating and it’s starting to affect the other organs… his liver is also starting to fail and it’s not a good sign,” she added.

His family wants to raise $150,000 to jumpstart Nakazato’s treatment in either Washington or California.

“We have plans of working with charities and foundations to help with medical costs. We can only do that when we are in the mainland already…he has been denied twice because he doesn’t have insurance, only Medicaid,” said Victoria Buñag, Nakazato’s girlfriend.

She said that Nakazato became sick with a flu virus in December last year. But it was only in June that doctors were finally able to pinpoint the proximate cause of his weakening condition—an enlarged heart.

“The doctors believe it was caused by a virus…other than that, he was pretty healthy as he was not a drinker or a smoker…[At first, it was thought to be] a gall stone problem but the doctor who was about to operate on him asked for another CT scan because the symptoms were not compatible with a gall-stone problem. Then the latest CT scan showed it was his heart.”

It turns out that it is not only Nakazato who needs an organ transplant in the family. His sister, Koniko, was due for a kidney transplant in June but they had to set that aside.

“I was diagnosed with a kidney condition in November 2015. My mother and I were supposed to fly to the U.S. mainland to get the process of a kidney transplant started but Raymond’s condition happened. Our goal now is to get Raymond transported and be situated in a hospital so they can care for him,” she said.

“My family has been going through the hardest time trying to prepare for my treatment…and now my brother…The $150,000 is only enough for one transplant. …the whole cost actually amounts to $1.4 million out of pocket..but our priority right now is for my brother to be transported to the [United] States,” she added.

Agulto said that Nakazato was supposed to fly back to Saipan last Tuesday. “We were told that his medicine is available here but, honestly, the medicine that he is on right now is temporary. It is just to help his heart pump. The doctors in Guam say if he comes here, it would be considered a death sentence and that’s why we need him to be in the mainland to get the proper medical attention and start the process of getting a transplant.”

“Once in the States, there are available charities and foundations that can help him. It’s just that these organizations cannot help him while he is here. We want people to know that if they see us on the road, night market and Saturday market doing a coin drive, that is for Raymond and Koniko. That’s what we want…I know it’s a long shot but it’s a fighting shot. We love him… he is so young to undergo this ordeal and we want to give him a fighting chance…We fervently hope that the community will help us,” she added.

Caroline Agulto and Victoria Bunag can be reached at (670) 789-87-93 and (670) 2866459. You can visit their Facebook Page: “ForBo&ko”, GoFundMe site: and check out their T-shirt collaboration with Tribe Marianas where proceeds will help with Nakazato’s medical fund.

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