Sela Ward

Friday's CSI: NY is a bit of a numbers game.

The episode's numerical title, "Nine Thirteen," takes on several meanings. First, it is the ninth season's 13th episode. The number also represents the address of a famed New York building where the crime of the week takes place. (A man who seemingly leaps to his death is discovered to be mimicking a previous suicide at the same address during the 1920s.)

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But the number is most significant to Sela Ward's Jo Danville, who lost her sister in a car accident that happened on Sept. 13. On her day off, Jo learns a shocking secret about her sister's death: She was an organ donor, and the man who received her heart (guest star Johann Urb) has tracked Jo down.

"I am fascinated with people who are donors," executive producer Pam Veasey tells TVGuide.com. "I'm fascinated by those who can give up a kidney and continue living their lives. But I'm also fascinated by donor stories — by the fundamental idea that often someone has to die to for someone else to live. What about the people who are left behind? And what if you were ever to bump into the person who got that part?

"This young man figured it out and tracks Jo down and wants to say thank you," Veasey continues. "And it's a secret we learn about Jo. We have never mentioned her having a sister before. That was a way of introducing a lot more about Jo and it's a beautiful story."

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Even though Jo's sister has never been mentioned before, Ward says audiences will understand how important she was to Jo. As such, this chance encounter offers Jo some peace.

"She is so overwhelmed and blown away by this experience, and probably changed forever," Ward says. "She even asks if she can listen to her sister's heart. She leans down to his chest and really gets to feel that [her sister] carries on — that she is hearing a little piece of her that still is very much alive. So I think that closure for Jo was a very healing connection."

Even so, Jo will be a bit suspicious of the man. "She asks a lot of questions of this person: 'What do you do? What did you become?'" Veasey says. "When you see he's standing there really handsome and healthy and [with] a whole life ahead of him, I think Jo [knows] that it's such a tremendous gift. There's a loss, but she can look up and smile and know that there was a gain."

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Ward says she was grateful to get to play such a touching, personal story. "It was like [the writers] handed me the biggest gift ever," she says. "On procedural shows like this, you tend to be starving for those kinds of story lines. It's [usually] all about giving information and helping fill in pieces of the puzzle for the audience to help solve a crime. ... It was just nice for me as an actress to be able to have something emotional to play."

Although the show may not touch on it again, Veasey says she believes Jo and this man "will be connected forever." And it's that element of the story that she hopes sticks with viewers.

"I hope it encourages... someone to think, 'Yeah, that would be nice to leave life and be a donor,'" she says. "It's not like I'm a huge advocate waving donor signs or anything, but... I wanted to give a really special shout-out to the families who lose someone, and those people have chosen to give something to someone else."

Watch a clip of Jo's reaction to the news below. CSI: NY airs Fridays at 9/8c on CBS.