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Victoria surgeon acts in German television series

July 28, 2014 at 2:28 a.m.
Updated July 29, 2014 at 2:29 a.m.

Dr. Yusuke Yahagi was enraptured by "Der Bergdoktor" character Dr. Martin Gruber, played by German actor Hans Sigl.  Yahagi learned German while watching the TV show - pausing the clip, looking up the translation, then resuming the segment.

Dr. Yusuke Yahagi, a surgeon by day and rock star by night, added European television star to his adventures earlier this month.

Yahagi's industrious yearlong effort to learn German on his own ended with an appearance in a popular, long-running German television series.

The cardiothoracic and vascular surgeon had fallen in love with Germany on his vacation last year and decided to learn German before he returned.

"Germans are punctual and hard-working," Yahagi said. "They're into precision and detail, and they're very friendly, too."

"Der Bergdoktor," a series about an Austrian mountain doctor, caught the surgeon's attention as he surfed the Internet for shows.

"I didn't have time to take classes," Yahagi said. "So, I watched, took notes, paused it and looked up words."

The life of fictional Dr. Martin Gruber, played by Hans Sigl, paralleled Yahagi's life. Gruber dedicated so much time to his patients that his personal life suffered, Yahagi said.

Every night, Yahagi sat at the desk in his bedroom before bedtime and watched the show on his computer. He sometimes spent several hours watching the series on weekends.

In an email to Johannes Koeck, head of Cine Tirol, Yahagi shared that he had learned German watching the series.

The television executive responded, and the two began a dialogue. Koeck invited Yahagi to visit the set in Ellmau, Austria, a picturesque summer and winter resort.

Yahagi and his wife, April Yahagi, began their two-week tour of Germany and Austria in early July. They arrived in Ellmau to find an itinerary at their hotel.

For two days, Viktoria Gruber, a Wilder Kaiser Tourism representative, showed the couple around the village, including the set of the television show.

Yahagi expected to meet Hans Sigl for five minutes and to get his autograph, but he and his wife spent the entire day with the star.

"He is a famous German-Austrian actor like Liam Neeson in America," Yahagi said. "He asked for my autograph and blasted my CD in the car on the way to the next location."

Yahagi is lead singer and guitarist for Dr. Yahagi and the Mended Hearts, who have an album of original songs titled "Heart Surgeon."

Sigl took Yahagi to the set of the intensive care unit, where director Axel Barth used him briefly as a doctor in a scene.

"It was 10 to 15 seconds, but he re-shot the scene 12 times from different angles," Yahagi said.

Yahagi's wife said the experience, though she wasn't in the scene, was amazing.

"I enjoy watching him get all excited," she said. "It was pretty surreal, seeing him conversing in German with the actor and director. He's been watching this show for a whole year, so it was pretty awesome."

Austrian reporters from a television station and newspaper interviewed the real-life Texas doctor about his visit to the set of the television series that taught him German.

"People recognized me on the train to Munich and in the hotel," Yahagi said. "It was an incredible experience."

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