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Marianas Variety: Mom seeks help for son, daughter who need heart and kidney transplants (August 27, 2018)

LEONA Masga Nakazato is asking the community’s prayers and support for her two children who are critically ill — one needs a heart transplant and the other needs a kidney transplant.

According to her sister Caroline Agulto, this has been the most trying time that the family has had to face.

In an interview, Agulto said Leona’s daughter Koniko Masga Nakazoto, 27, was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure in Nov. 2015.

Since then, she has been going to the hospital three times a week for hemodialysis treatment.

“Koniko has two options — one is hemodialysis treatment for the rest of her life, or a kidney transplant,” Agulto said.

Leona and her husband Takehide sought a kidney transplant for their daughter so she can continue to live her life as she once knew it.

Koniko said she and her mother were about to move to Washington state to start the process for her kidney transplant in June this year when her brother Raymond, 22, was diagnosed with dilated cardiomyopathy or an enlarged heart.


After receiving his AA degree in natural resource management from Northern Marianas College in 2017, Raymond’s health started to deteriorate.

His girlfriend Viktoria Buniag said Raymond’s symptoms included “stomach problems like abdominal pain and bloating which eventually progressed to vomiting.”

Buniag added, “We had to go to a clinic at least once a week because he was always dehydrated and tired. The medication that they prescribed was not working.”

On May 29, after his graduation, his condition got worse.

“He got to the the point where he would pass out. He could not eat. He was not eating for weeks at a time,” Buniag said. They then brought him to the Commonwealth Health Center’s emergency room.

“When he was in the ER, they did an ultrasound on his gall bladder and saw sludge and some stones. The medications were not working. The anti-nausea meds and pain reliever were not working. His blood pressure was dropping. That’s when they admitted him.”

Raymond was supposed to undergo surgery to remove the sludge and stones in his gall bladder the following day.

But when his surgeon saw him, he said Raymond should undergo a CT scan. “His surgeon said the symptoms were very bad for a gall bladder which did not seem to have a blockage just sludge and some stones.”

The CT scan revealed that his heart was enlarged. They also performed an electrocardiogram or EKG, which measures the amount of blood being pumped out, on Raymond.

But CHC has no cardiologist so Raymond was flown to the Guam Regional Medical City on June 2. He has been confined there since then.

“On Guam they gave him medication in an IV drip to expand the arteries so his heart can pump out blood,” Buniag said. “but his heart is still weak, and the doctors recommended that he get a heart transplant.”

According to Agulto, they are running out of time as Raymond’s heart is pumping out blood at a rate of only 15 percent. “What it means is that his heart is getting worse. The doctor is recommending a heart transplant. We need funding assistance to transport him to the U.S. mainland. He needs to go to the mainland to begin the process.”

A heart transplant is a lengthy process, Agulto said. “There is a process in getting a donor. There is evaluation. And the patient will be on a waiting list. It is a long-shot, but we have to do something. So we want to reach out to the community for help.”

Agulto said Raymond was a healthy and active young man. “He doesn’t smoke and he doesn’t drink. After graduation he was very excited to be in the environmental workforce because he was very passionate about the environment and local culture. He is a musician. He dances. He has been robbed of his dreams.”

In high school, Agulto added, Raymond, representing the CNMI and Marianas High School, was a three time champion in the Chamorro cultural competition at the University of Guam.

Agulto said their goal now is to bring Raymond to the mainland U.S. and raise funds for his medical expenses

She said they need to raise $150,000 to transport him either to California or Washington state.

“Raymond is not doing well,” Agulto told Variety on Sunday afternoon.


Koniko’s treatment had to be deferred because of Raymond’s serious health situation.

“We were preparing to get her process started [kidney transplant],” Agulto said. “Unfortunately, we had to hold off on it and take care of Raymond first because it is urgent. His is the more critical situation at this time.”

Koniko was diagnosed with end-stage renal failure at age 24.

“I had swelling feet,” she said. “My joints felt like they were sprained all the time. I had trouble breathing. I was always tired. I had chest pains as well.” She was prescribed medication for high blood pressure.

Agulto described Koniko as studious and very active. She got her education degree with a concentration in special education from NMC in 2015.

“She got a job and was starting to live her life. She was eating right and did everything right. It really took time for everyone to accept [her ailment],” Agulto said.

Koniko enlisted in the Army as a Reservist in January, she said she had to be released because of her medical condition. "I really want to be in the Army, but I think it will not happen anymore."

She worked fulltime as teacher aide at the Public School System while attending NMC.

In 2013, she was named CNMI Teacher Aide of the Year.

When she graduated from college in 2015, Koniko was the recipient of the NMC Leadership Award.

“We are very passionate [at what we do],” Komiko said, referring to herself and her brother. “We had so many plans after graduation. When we get through with this, I will continue to work with kids at school.”

Agulto said they are planning to conduct fundraising activities including a coin drive for Raymond and Koniko.

Caroline Agulto and Viktoria Buniag can be reached at 789-8793 or [email protected].

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