Patinkin Sees Life In A New Light

Mandy Patinkin wants you to know something.

"Fifty-eight thousand people a year are waiting for various organs and ten people a day die waiting for organ donations."

Mandy is aware of the need for organ donation because without donated corneas, he would be blind, reports CBS News Correspondent Harry Smith.

"So far as I'm concerned, this will be the best Thanksgiving I've ever had," says Patinkin.

Mandy has corontinitis, a rare disease that over time destroys the cornea. The only solution, says surgeon Susan Belmont, is a transplant.

"About a year ago we did a corneal transplant in his right eye, and he now sees better than 20-20 out of that eye," says Dr. Belmont. "And his left eye is ready now. He's really legally blind in his left eye. So we are going to perform a corneal transplant and restore his vision."

Belmont is a past master at this procedure. Her moves are gentle and precise, and within an hour Mandy's diseased and ruined cornea is removed. A clear perfect cornea from a donor is put in its place. It's simple: a corneal transplant makes the blind see.

"It's an extraordinary gift when somebody gives their eye to someone so someone else can see," says Patinkin. "Let alone other organs to save a life. I could live if I was blind. People can't live without hearts, without lungs, without livers."

Becoming an organ donor is easy. Just fill out a form with your driver's license. Still, most Americans don't do it.

"The United States participates in the organ donation program more than any other country in the world. And yet, less than five percent of our population participates. It's a shame," says Patinkin.

To Patinkin, it's irksome and inexplicable why anyone would hold back.

"What are you gonna do after you go?" Patinkin asks. "What are you gonna do with the part? Let somebody improve the quality of someone's life. It's an extraordinary gift, and a wonderful way to live on."

Thanks to the kindness of strangers, Mandy Patinkin knows he'll always be able to see his wife and children. Imagine, he says, what it would be like to know that you could save another human being's life.

"I started to think about what my religion says, which is a beautiful thing. Which is if you save one life you save the world," says Patinkin.
  • CBSNews.com staff CBSNews.com staff

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