A TAXI driver is finally on the road to recovery after a double lung transplant -- after eight false calls for the surgery.
Stephen Smith said his life has been transformed after spending more than five years dependent on oxygen 24 hours a day.
"It's better than winning any lottery," said Mr Smith (35), from Cavan.
"It's brilliant. Recovery provided me with challenges every day, but I overcame them all one at a time and was allowed to go home after 15 days in hospital.
"Trying to describe how my life has changed, even at this early stage, is proving to be difficult."
Mr Smith first started to feel sick and breathless when playing Gaelic when he was 25 and thought it was asthma.
He was eventually diagnosed with alpha-1 Antitrypsin deficiency (alpha-1), a genetic condition that can affect the lungs and the liver.
One in 25 Irish people are carriers for alpha-1, making it the second most common genetic lung disease after cystic fibrosis.
"Before I was diagnosed I worked five days a week driving patients to and from dialysis in Cavan, I played Gaelic and soccer and trained three or four days a week," he said.
"In the last five to six years, I've had to give up work, give up playing all sport which I loved, and give up going out socially for fear of infection.
"This condition did not just affect me, it affected my whole family."
A record 293 organs were transplanted last year, including 32 lung transplants -- more than the 31 carried out between 2009 and 2012.
There were also 55 liver transplants, 11 heart, 10 pancreas and 147 kidney and 38 living kidney donors.
Elsewhere, 86 deceased donors and their families saved the lives of 245 people, 10 of whom received two organs.