Nurse Adopts Autistic Homeless Man So He Can Have A Life-Saving Heart Transplant

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There are good people in the world, and then there are GOOD PEOPLE. Ones who can only be described as angels walking amongst us. And one such angel? Goes by the name of Lori Wood.

Photo Credit: Piedmont Healthcare/Facebook

In a story that will warm the cockles of the most frozen heart, Lori, an ICU nurse at the Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Georgia, opened her heart and her home to a complete stranger. 

And in doing so changed the trajectory of one young man’s life forever. 

Jonathan Pinkard was diagnosed with heart failure after falling at work in August 2018. He was 26-years-old. His only chance for survival? A heart transplant.

But the waiting list for organ donations is long and comes with a number of requirements that have to be met in order to qualify. These requirements include having a home and a support system in place to care for you post-surgery. Both of which Jonathan was sadly lacking.  

Jonathan, who has high-functioning autism, was raised by his grandmother until her death in 2012. With his mother in a rehab facility and no place to call home, Jonathan spent most of his nights at a homeless shelter. 

In December 2018, Jonathan was admitted to emergency at Piedmont Newnan Hospital. At this point he was given 6 months to live. He believed his fate was sealed. But fate is a tricky mistress and she had other plans. While death may have been sitting on Jonathan’s doorstep, it was no match for the angel that was about to walk through his door.

Lori, a single mother and a veteran nurse of 35 years, first met Jonathan in the intensive care ward the day after he ended up in emergency in December. Two days later? She offered to become his legal guardian.

Photo Credit: Lori Wood/Washington Post

Her reason was simple. She knew that he needed someone. Annnnnd cue the tissues. Lori knew that the only way to get Jonathan on the transplant list (and save his life) was to adopt him and provide him with the support system that was required. She didn’t even hesitate.

She tells CBS News

“I think, at some point God places people in situations in your life, and you have a choice to do something about it,” she said. “And I guess, for me, with this situation there was no choice. I mean, I had a room. I was a nurse. I could take care of him. It really wasn’t anything that I struggled about. It was just something that had to happen. He had to come home with me.”

 And so on the day Jonathan was discharged from the hospital he went to live with Lori and one of her three grown sons, Austin Wood. Lori and Jonathan quickly bonded over their shared love of football and game shows, namely ‘Family Feud.’

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

It didn’t take long for Jonathan to feel at home in his new surroundings. He says “From the day I went home with her, she felt like my second mom.” And now he calls her “Mama.”

In July Lori filed the paperwork to officially adopt Jonathan as her own. And on August 1, 2019, Jonathan underwent a 7-hour surgery to receive a new heart. The operation was a success.

As for his post-op care? It couldn’t be any better. Lori drives him to his doctor’s appointments, monitors his medications which consist of 34 pills daily, and ensures that he is eating a healthy diet. 

In addition she is also teaching him important life skills like how to cook and budget, with the intention that at some point, he will be able to return to work and live on his own.

Lori’s selfless act of kindness led to her receiving The President’s Award from Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

The award recognizes deserving employees who go above and beyond for their patients, visitors, or their co-workers. I think it’s safe to say that no one else even came close to beating Lori on this one.

Mike Robertson, CEO of Piedmont Newnan, had this to say about Lori:

“When I first heard Lori’s story, I was just shocked. Most caregivers have big hearts. But I have not seen any nearly as close to Lori.”

And neither have I. Lori not only gave Jonathan a new heart, she also gave him a new life and a new family. She really is one extraordinary person. As for Jonathan, he couldn’t agree more. 

“I feel like I’m one of her sons. All I can say is, “Thank you Mama Lori. Thank you. I love you.”

It takes a rare person to become a nurse.

They walk beside you during some of life’s greatest moments and hold you during some of life’s worst defeats. They are there for your first hellos and your last goodbyes. They provide hope when you feel it silently slipping away and advocate for you when your own voice is lost. They are fighters, comforters, encouragers, and caregivers. And in Lori’s case? They are saints.

But it wasn’t just being a nurse that prompted Lori to choose this path that very few of us would ever walk down. 

Lori put herself aside and opened her entire life up to a complete stranger in an act of pure, unconditional kindness, not only as a nurse but also as a mom. And with a mother’s love? She saved Jonathan’s life. Is there any greater gift that one person could give to another?

 

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