STOCKTON, Calif. (AP) _ Tracy McIntyre will breathe more comfortably this holiday season now that one-inch sprig of fir tree is gone from her right lung.

And the 16-year-old won't inhale too deeply around Christmas trees. Her family thinks she ingested the bit of Yule cheer as a toddler.

``I'm probably going to stay pretty far away from it,'' Tracy said of this year's tree. ``Don't want to take any chances.''

Not only did the sprig remain in Tracy's lung for 15 years, said her surgeon, Dr. Isam Felahy, it also stayed green.

Since Christmas 1980, when the 18-month-old Tracy suffered a choking fit near the tree, she's had shortness of breath, coughing fits and bad breath.

``Since I was 2 years old, I've been called Dragon Breath,'' Tracy said.

Finally her parents, Vicki and Mike McIntyre, took her to the doctor.

Felahy thought Tracy had a birth defect until Monday's operation, when he removed damaged tissue and found a cavity. Inside was the sprig, green as ever.

In the recovery room, nurses grilled Tracy: ``Have you been eating Christmas trees lately?''