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ICU Nurse Adopts Man With Autism So He Can Get Life-Saving Heart Transplant

A 27-year-old man with autism needed a heart transplant but wasn’t eligible because he didn’t have a support system. So an ICU nurse stepped in and adopted him so he could get the life-saving procedure.

The President’s Award is the culminating event of Piedmont’s Promise 360 employee recognition program that awards deserving employees who go above and beyond for patients, visitors or their co-workers. Nominees to the President’s Award include one Promise 360 Champion and two Spotlight winners who represent each Piedmont hospital and entity. The 2018-2019 winner is Lorinda (Lori) Wood, staff RN, PACU from Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

Posted by Piedmont Healthcare on Friday, October 4, 2019

In 2018, ICU nurse Lori Wood was assigned to Jonathan Pinkard at Piedmont Newman Hospital in Georgia after he fell at work. After being examined, Jonathan was told he needed a heart transplant. According to Piedmont Healthcare’s Facebook page, it was then that Lori knew she had to help this man.

Some of the requirements for getting a heart transplant is that the patient needs to be responsible enough to take care of their health and stay on top of their medication. Pinkard, whose grandmother passed away in 2012 and whose mother is reportedly in rehab, often stayed at shelters.

“Jonathan was very sick, but he wasn’t eligible for a transplant because he didn’t have a support system,” Wood told TODAY.

That changed when Wood, a single mother, asked Pinkard if she could become his legal guardian.

“I had to help him. It was a no-brainer. He would have died without the transplant,” said Wood.

Despite not really knowing each other, the two quickly fell into a comfortable relationship and routine.

“Jonathan has his chair, and I have my chair,” Wood said. “We like game shows and high five back and forth if we get an answer right. He is very loving.”

Pinkard had the heart transplant in August, and Wood has kept him healthy by monitoring his medications and taking him to doctors appointments. She is also helping him improve his credit score and teaching him skills he needs to live on his own. He calls her “Mama” and hopes to return to work as an office clerk soon.

“It’s been a joy having Jonathan here with us,” Wood said. “I knew this is what I was supposed to do.”

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Patricia Grisafi

Written by Patricia Grisafi