"I had no idea what had just happened," he said.
He remembers saying that his torso was aching. Sean McGrath looked at his older brother and said, "That was where they took out your old liver and put in a new one."
In one week, Joe has gained a perspective he'll carry with him the rest of his life. He points to the place doctors drilled a hole to monitor the pressure on his brain.
"You don't know how your tremendous misfortune is going to be offset by your great fortune," he said.
Last Monday, Joe was feeling sick. He hadn't felt like himself since Thanksgiving.
"I turned totally yellow," he said.
He figured he was dehydrated or had a flu bug. His mom, Jennifer Yohn thought it was something minor too.
"By later that morning, he had crashed and ER doctors at Lutheran Hospital were trying to save his life," Yohn said.
He was transferred to Porter Adventist Hospital on Tuesday.
By Thursday he was No. 1 on the liver transplant list, but possibly too sick to go through surgery.
"We had to help him breathe within 24 hours of coming to the hospital. He was getting really bad very quickly," Dr. Clark Kulig said.
"It was a race against the clock. His brain began to swell and he went into a coma," added Joe's surgeon, Dr. Tom Heffron.
Doctors were blunt when they talked to the family. A liver transplant was the only way he'd survive at all, but he was so weak he may not survive surgery if a donor liver was available. Jennifer Yohn was watching her son die.
"We were wondering how we got to this place in a matter of days," she said.
A call came from a hospital out of state a few hours later. There was a donor liver. It was not a blood-type match. It didn't matter. It couldn't wait.
Heffron preformed what is called a cross-type transplant. Joe Yohn's would be the third in 10 years in the Rocky Mountain region.
Doctors are even surprised how well he is recovering. Yohn says he's just now seeing the enormity of it all.
"So many people have come to my hospital room to shake my hand or see how I was doing because they were involved in saving my life and they didn't think that I was going to make it."
Jennifer Yohn sits next to the hospital bed.
She can't stop looking at the 37-year-old son that will always be a child to her. She calls him the No. 1 Christmas present this year.
"I'm threatening to tie a red bow on him for Christmas dinner," she said.
Joe Yohn says there is a gift in this story for everyone: knowing that when things seem hopeless there can be hope.
"This was as bad as it could be and now it is as good as it can be," she said.
Porter Adventist Hospital's transplant team has done 100 transplants this year and more than 1,000 since 1986.
The Yohns are asking people to consider being organ donors. They say they are so grateful that in the midst of someone's loss, they had the grace to give such a tremendous gift.
(KUSA-TV © 2010 Multimedia Holdings Corporation)