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Georgia nurse adopts man with autism so he can receive a new heart

"He would have died without the transplant."
Piedmont Newnan ICU nurse Lori Wood and Jonathan Pinkard. (Photo: Piedmont Healthcare)

NEWNAN, Ga. (TEGNA) — Lori Wood is an Intensive Care Unit nurse at Piedmont Newnan Hospital.

Officials with Piedmont last month honored her with the Piedmont Healthcare President's Award after she made a life-saving decision to help a 27-year-old man who otherwise would have a death sentence.

Jonathan Pinkard has high-functioning autism and last year was rushed to the hospital after collapsing at work, according to a video from Piedmont.

Jonathan lived with his grandmother until her death in 2012. His mom lives in a rehab facility.

After he was rushed to the hospital, Jonathan learned that he needed a transplant, but because he did not have a support system, he was not eligible for one.

"One of the requirements is that you have to have someone to care for you afterwards," Wood told The Today Show.

Those on transplant lists are required to have a support system to help ensure he follows a healthy lifestyle, including keeping up with a proper diet, exercise and regimen of immunosuppressive drugs so that the new heart would not be rejected by his body.

Wood said that after knowing Jonathan for two days, she asked him if she could become his legal guardian.

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

She didn't know anything else about Jonathan when he moved in, but the two bonded very quickly over football and "Family Feud."

Jonathan calls Wood "Mama," he told Today.

She monitors his many medications -- some 34 each day. She also takes him to his doctor's appointments. In addition, she is helping him to improve his credit score and teaching him the life skills he needs to live independently.

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