Lori Wood

ICU Nurse Adopts 27-Year-Old Man With Autism So He Can Have A Heart Transplant

I think we can all agree that nurses are the lifeblood and the unsung heroes of the healthcare system.

These compassionate men and women are responsible for giving patients all the care and attention they could possibly need, and then some. They consistently go above and beyond the call of duty in order to ensure everyone is healthy, happy, and well taken care of.

And nurse Lori Wood of Newnan, Georgia, is certainly no exception.

Wood, who works in the ICU at Piedmont Newnan Hospital, recently met 27-year-old Johnathan Pinkard while he was a patient.

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After suffering a fall at work last year, he was told he needed a heart transplant but wasn't able to meet the requirements.

"Jonathan was very sick, but he wasn't eligible for a transplant because he didn't have a support system," Wood told TODAY. "One of the requirements is th at you have someone to care for you afterwards."

Pinkard, who has autism, has been in and out of the hospital since August, and would often be discharged to a men's shelter.

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Other requirements for transplants include making sure the patient is responsible enough to protect their health and take necessary medications.

Since Pinkard's mother is in rehab and his grandmother passed away in 2012, he was left virtually all alone in the world with no one to look after him in his time of need.

But, just two days after she met him, Wood asked if she could become his legal guardian.

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"I had to help him," the 57-year-old nurse explained. "It was a no-brainer. He would have died without the transplant."

Pinkard was able to get that transplant he so desperately needed in August and has been living with Wood while he recovers.

After he moved in, Wood admitted there was an adjustment period while the two got accustomed to their new lives together.

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But soon they had bonded over football and their shared loved of "Family Feud."

"Johnathan has his chair, and I have my chair," she explained. "We like game shows and high five back and forth if we get an answer right."

Wood added that Pinkard is "very loving" and calls her "Mama."

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As his guardian, she makes sure he takes all his necessary medications (which amounts to 34 pills a day), and is also responsible for taking him to his doctor's appointments.

But besides becoming his medical caretaker, Wood has also taken it upon herself to help Pinkard succeed in life, too.

She said she's currently working with him to help improve his credit score and also helping him become more independent.

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"She treats me like one of her sons," Pinkard said. "I am truly thankful for that."

He hopes to return to his job as an office clerk in December. But Wood, who has become accustomed to coming home to Pinkard waving at her from the porch, said she'll miss seeing him everyday.

"It's been a joy having Johnathan here with us," she said. "I knew this is what I was supposed to do."

h/t: TODAY