He'd been her patient for only about two days when upon hearing his story, she asked him to move into her house and offered to become his legal guardian.
Jonathan Pinkard was in desperate need of a heart transplant. However, as a homeless 27-year-old who didn't have a support system to help him through recovery, he couldn't qualify for a spot on the waiting list for a new heart. But life works in mysterious ways and just when it seemed as though all hope was lost, Lori Wood walked into his life. The 57-year-old ICU nurse at Piedmont Newnan Hospital in Georgia had known Pinkard for only about two days when she made him an unbelievable offer. Wood invited Pinkard—who has autism—to move in with her and offered to become his legal guardian.
"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 that you have someone to care for you afterward." Pinkard—who was living in a men's shelter and working as an office clerk in Warm Springs, Georgia, before meeting Wood—had been in and out of the hospital since August 2018 after unexpectedly passing out at work. He'd been on his own since 2014 following his grandmother's death and when he found out he didn't qualify for a heart transplant, he didn't know what to do.
"It was a pretty scary situation to be in," Pinkard told The Washington Post. "I had no idea what I was going to do." And then in December 2018—four months after he learned he needed a new heart—he landed in the hospital yet again and was assigned to Wood. The single mom, who has been a nurse for 35 years, was touched by Pinkard's story and decided that she had to do everything she could to give him a fighting chance. "I had to help him. It was a no-brainer. He would have died without the transplant," she explained.
"That can be very frustrating if you know a patient needs something, and for whatever reason they can’t have it. It gnaws at you," she said. "At some point, God places people in situations in your life, and you have a choice to do something about it. For me, there was no choice. I’m a nurse; I had an extra room. It was not something I struggled with. He had to come home with me." Speaking of Wood's incredible offer, Pinkard said, "I couldn't believe that somebody who had known me only two days would do this. It was almost like a dream."
Wood revealed that as someone who generally doesn’t blur the lines between her personal and professional lives, she's never done something like this before. However, knowing that Pinkard didn’t have anybody in the world looking out for him and that this heartbreaking fact was standing between him and a new heart, she couldn't bring herself to turn a blind eye. So, the day he was discharged from the hospital, Wood brought him to her home, bought him a new bedroom set and told him: "I want you to make this room your own. I want you to feel at home."
"She’s been 'Mama' to me since [then]," said Pinkard. "From the day I went home with her, she felt like my second mom." In July 2019, Wood filed the necessary paperwork and legally became his guardian. A month later, Pinkard underwent a successful seven-hour heart transplant.
Throughout his recovery, Wood took good care of him, driving him to his doctor appointments, ensuring that he takes each of the 34 pills he's been prescribed and steering him away from unhealthy food. She also spent time helping him improve his credit score and teaching him the necessary life skills he needs so he can be independent.
Although the pair knew very little about each other when Pinkard moved in, they quickly realized that they shared a love for football and Family Feud. "I went to the store for groceries, and when I came home, he was watching 'Family Feud' — the same show I always have on after work," Wood revealed. "So right then, I said, 'We’re going to get along fine.'" Pinkard is eternally grateful to his "second mom" for everything she's done for him. "She treats me like one of her sons," he said. "I am truly thankful for that."