Brian Maloney, 60, had been prepared for surgery repeatedly over the last 15 months, but each time the lungs were either unusable or were given to someone waiting for a heart and lung transplant.
On Christmas Day Mr Maloney's hospital called just after he had finished his Christmas dinner to say an organ was available.
This time the operation went ahead and his partner, Hilary Grimshaw, says the surgery was the best present they have ever had and Mr Maloney is now recovering in the intensive care unit at Wythenshawe Hospital after the nine-hour operation.
He had previously been left needing oxygen 24 hours a day to help him breathe and struggled to get out of bed.
Mr Maloney was taken into theatre at 2am on Boxing Day and doctors worked through the night, finishing the operation at 11am.
Miss Grimshaw, of Westhoughton, Bolton, said: "We couldn't believe they were calling us in on Christmas Day, it seemed too perfect, it is the best Christmas present we have ever had.
"He was so sick and we had both started to think it was too late for him, that very soon he would not be well enough even for the surgery. It is a very big operation and he is still in intensive care but he is recovering well and we are so excited, Brian is totally overwhelmed.
"We want to thank everyone at the hospital who has helped us, the surgeons, the co-ordinators and all the staff, but especially the donor's family."
Doctors at Wythenshawe Hospital said they have never known a patient be so unlucky so many times but say Brian is now making a good recovery and within 48 hours of surgery he was breathing by himself.
By Monday he was sitting up in intensive care but he will need weeks of care before he is well enough to return home.
Surgeon Nizar Yonan said: "Brian had become very unwell so he was a priority case and he was lucky to survive to have this operation. When we heard there was an organ on Christmas Day we thought it was a very nice thing that he should get his operation on the 12th attempt."
Mr Yonan said Brian's case illustrates the need for more people to donate relatives' organs.
He said: "Brian has had to wait a very long time for this operation and that shows precisely why we need more donors. We call in two or three people each time an organ becomes available because we want to ensure we use all suitable organs.
"We do always warn people we may not be able to carry out the procedure and often people will be called in a few times before having an operation, but this is a very unusual case."
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I wish everyone Happy Holidays and all the best for 2009