DALLAS (CBSDFW.COM) – Michael Young of Grand Prairie never set out to make medical history. The 59-year-old simply made it a point to take care of himself, follow his doctors’ orders and diligently adhere to his medication.

In June, Young will become one of a small group of lung transplant patients who have survives 20 years past their surgery.

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“I think it’s because I walked a lot when I first got the transplant,” said Young. “I still walk. I’ve done everything the doctors told me and I tried to keep a real positive attitude.”

Young received a new right lung in June of 1992, after being diagnosed with Pulmonary Fibrosis. Doctors made the diagnosis at Baylor Medical Center in Dallas.

It wasn’t that Young didn’t think he was sick, up until his diagnosis his family doctor thought Young was suffering from pneumonia. When he didn’t recover from his symptoms, Young was referred to a pulmonologist.

Doctors at UT Southwestern Medical Center performed the single-lung transplant.

Since the procedure Young said, “I’ve enjoyed life a lot more since the transplant. Things aren’t as important as everyday living.”

Dr. Michael DiMaio, Associate Professor and Director of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Research at UTSW, explained why patients who receive donated hearts, kidneys and livers typically live longer than lung transplant patients.

“Because there’s tissue in the lungs, more than any of the other organs, that the body looks to, to reject.”

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According to United Network for Organ Sharing (UNOS), about three out of 10 lung transplant patients survive beyond 10 years.

DiMaio says patients like Young help researchers and doctors learn more about what types of treatment and medications work best.

“I think it’s a combination of an excellent patient and excellent care,” he said.

Among other things, Young said he feels blessed to have been alive when his granddaughter, Kayla, was born. She is now 11 years old and Young hopes to be there when she graduates from high school and college.

“I truly do wish that everybody would think about donating,” said Young. “It’s a gift. A gift of life.”

April is National Donate Life Month.

Check out the UNOS website to get information on becoming an organ donor and to learn more about the organ transplant waiting list.

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