"Do you know somebody who is on a waiting list for an organ transplant?," a donation coordinator asked Matt Alessandrini of Sterling Heights Tuesday.
His wife, Jennifer Spence Alessandrini, 37, was on life support at St. John Macomb Hospital in Warren.
Jennifer had played hard with her two young daughters on Sunday. She rose for work Monday morning, only to crawl back into bed and ask her husband to hold her head and try to quell the intense pain within.
Moments later, the Sterling Heights woman collapsed. She was rushed to the hospital, where doctors discovered that she had a brain aneurysm. Jennifer had no chance of recovery; she was brain dead.
As Matt confronted a life without Jennifer, he was inspired by her. She was a giver. Jennifer, a certified occupational therapist assistant, would have wanted her organs donated, even though she wasn't a registered donor.
Matt's distant cousin Diane Cappello of Toronto had polycystic kidney disease, which kept her kidneys from filtering blood properly. Three years ago, her husband had donated a kidney, but the transplant failed. Cappello was on the transplant waiting list; she had dialysis three times a week, and she needed help.
That's what Jennifer did -- in her work she helped others regain health and mobility.
"What she did was help people. Her coworkers said she would always take the difficult patient -- the patients nobody could get to do anything would respond to her," said Matt, 39. "I knew in my heart this was what she would have wanted."
On Tuesday, Matt struggled to explain to his daughters, Jenna, 7, and Ava, 3, that their mother wasn't likely to get better or come home. On Wednesday, Jenna, who had been preparing for a recital, crooned "Maybe" from the musical "Annie" over the phone as Matt held it to the ear of his comatose wife.
Hours later doctors harvested Jennifer's liver and kidneys.
The liver and one kidney went to recipients in Michigan. The other kidney was flown across the border to St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto.
Diane Cappello, 53, got a call from a transplant specialist Wednesday -- there was a possible match, but they didn't share many details.
Wednesday evening, Cappello's husband, Nick, got a call from his mother-in-law, Mary Tenesi, who had news. She knew who had donated Cappello's new kidney. It was a family member from Detroit.
Jennifer's kidney was cradled by sterile ice packs and held in a cooler. Early Thursday, it was transplanted into Cappello. Cappello's family decided not to tell her about Jennifer's death or about the origin of her new kidney before the surgery.
"It's a heck of a gift," Nick Cappello said. "What do you say? You're torn by her loss, which is so sad. And you're so grateful for the gift."
Thursday night, Nick called Matt to thank him. Both men fought through tears, and tried to figure out what to say to each other.
"Her husband called me, and he was happy for her and sad for me," said Matt. "It's been an overwhelming experience."
Tim Makinen, a spokesman for Gift of Life Michigan, the agency that promotes the organ donor registration list, said directed donations such as this one happen about once a month. "Every donor is offered the chance to direct the organs to someone they know," he said.
Recipients need to have already been evaluated for organ donation and on a waiting list, and they have to be screened for blood type and other factors of compatibility. They don't have to be related to the donor.
Less than five months ago, about 200 family and friends gathered for Matt and Jennifer's wedding. Although they had been a couple for more than 10 years, the pair made it official Dec. 4, 2009. Jennifer made the table centerpieces and decorations herself. Their daughters were the flower girls, dressed in white.
Today, family and friends will gather for Jennifer's funeral at Bagnasco & Calcaterra Funeral Home in St. Clair Shores. She'll be remembered for a lifetime of gentle acts and generosity.
And in Toronto, she will be remembered for one special gift.