When Irvine surgeon Sebastian Schubl told his pregnant wife his plan to go to New York City to help care for COVID-19 patients, she wasn’t super excited.
“But after a little bit of early anxiety she wanted me to go and lend a hand,” he says.
Schubl, 43, and his wife Yuri, who is a teacher, met when he was working at Weill Cornell, a New York Presbyterian hospital in Manhattan.
The couple moved to Irvine in 2016, but Schubl had kept in touch with his former colleagues. When he saw news reports of New York City hospitals inundated with patients, he reached out with an offer to help.
“I texted my mentor on a Monday and I was on a plane Thursday,” he says.
He stepped out of a cab in Times Square the night of April 9 and found a ghost town.
“I got out of my taxi at 7 p.m., and I was completely alone,” he recalls.
He could have bunked at the hospital, but his wife insisted he stay at a hotel. She also insisted he take a suitcase with him filled with protective gear, like masks, gowns and goggles in case the hospital ran out. Schubl was assigned to the COVID ICU at Weill Cornell. There he worked 12-hour shifts for six days straight. He brushes off talk of an emotional toll. “This is what I do for a living,” he says. “I’m a trauma surgeon.”
Schubl is, in fact, the chief of surgery at UCI Medical Center, as well as an associate clinical professor of surgery at UCI.
On April 16, he flew back to Irvine. His wife and their toddler went to her parents’ house for several days so he could quarantine.
“It’s amazing how lucky we’ve been in Orange County,” he says. “We got ahead of the curve somehow.”