As a child, Howell Graham was diagnosed with cystic fibrosis, a genetic disease that often affects the lungs. By the time he reached his late twenties, Howell would lose his breath doing something as simple as brushing his teeth.

So, in 1990, he had a double-lung transplant — a risky, experimental operation at the time. Today, Howell is one of the longest-surviving recipients of that surgery.

At StoryCorps, Howell and his mom, Nan, remembered a few times when it seemed like he might not make it.