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Nevada’s first coronavirus death: ‘It hit him like a ton of bricks’

Updated March 24, 2020 - 5:12 pm

The first Nevadan with COVID-19 to die was a lifelong Chicago Cubs fan — so much so that he managed to snag “THECUBS” as his license plate years back.

His name was Daniel Scully. At 69, he was a doting uncle to his nieces and nephews. He was also a loving brother, cousin and close son to his 96-year-old mother.

He called Las Vegas home for about 30 years, moving here from the Chicago area for a family business, but he eventually came to own his own — a PostNet printing franchise.

Shy, he never married. But “Danny” didn’t seem to mind, racking up more than one million airline miles as he traveled the country over the years to visit family in Illinois, or friends in Florida, or watch the Cubs play somewhere new.

Sometimes, he took spontaneous trips to random cities simply because he felt like it.

He died alone on March 15, connected to a ventilator at MountainView Hospital, a few days after the World Health Organization declared the outbreak a pandemic.

“This thing just clobbered him,” his cousin, Robert Scully, 72, said of the virus. “It snuck up on him, and when it hit him, it hit him like a ton of bricks. He didn’t have a chance.”

A quick takedown

Less than a week before the point of no return, Daniel Scully felt tired. More tired than he had maybe ever felt.

His cousin Robert, who also lives in Las Vegas, insisted that he go to the doctor, who instructed him to go home, get some rest, and stay inside. It was March 4 or 5, just before COVID-19 anxiety began to seep into Americans’ lives. A few shoppers had started stockpiling toilet paper and water bottles at the Summerlin Costco. He wasn’t tested.

Robert Scully had to go out of town, but Daniel kept his sister in Chicago, Cissy Greenspan, updated on his condition. He thought he had the flu, he told her.

On the night of March 8, he was feeling particularly sick. He had a follow-up doctor’s appointment scheduled the next day, he reassured her.

But Daniel Scully never showed up for his appointment, Greenspan learned after calling the office, worried because her brother wasn’t answering her calls. So she called the police.

Officers arrived at his northwest valley home to find Daniel Scully in his bed, too weak to answer his phone or push his Life Alert button, which would have notified emergency services that he needed help. He struggled to breathe.

An ambulance brought him to MountainView, where he was admitted — responsive but barely. Officers told his sister he was in good hands.

He was, she said, but by the next morning, he was on a ventilator. He never recovered.

“Nevada’s first,” Robert Scully said. “Lucky us.”

No chance to say goodbye

What troubled Daniel Scully’s family most was not being able to be with him in his last moments.

“Danny’s loss is kind of getting lost in this, because we’re all pretty freaked out about what is happening — the isolation that people are feeling now,” his sister, 64, said. “If Danny hadn’t gotten sick and died when he did, he would have been one of those people freaking out now about, ‘How do I get my groceries? I’ve got to stay inside.’ ”

In a weird way, they consider themselves lucky. Scully came down with the virus relatively early, and Greenspan said she takes comfort in knowing that her brother received dedicated medical attention.

Hospital staff called her at least three times a day. One doctor, who was off-duty at the time, even sat with him for a while and said a prayer as a ventilator pumped his chest up and down, she was told.

“I worry about all these health care workers too, because they can only do what they can do,” she said. “It’s going to get to the point where a 40-year-old with two kids is going to get the ventilator before ‘Uncle Dan’ would.”

Part of that is because Scully had underlying medical conditions, his family said.

He was a diabetic, apparently too weak when officers arrived to administer his own insulin for some time. He was also a prostate cancer survivor who twice had recurrent tumors removed from his lungs.

But he was independent, too. Mobile. Plenty healthy to take care of himself and travel by himself.

“People joke about the virus, but it can kill you — it definitely can kill you,” Robert Scully said. “Sixty-nine is not that old, considering he used to tease me all the time about me being his older cousin.”

“It’s just a shame,” he continued. “It happened so fast, and of course no chance to say goodbye.”

Daniel Scully’s family is in the process of getting him cremated. A proper funeral is too much of a risk right now, and as a Jewish family trying to social distance in separate homes and states, they had no way to sit shiva.

But Greenspan plans to scatter her brother’s ashes somewhere at Wrigley Field one day, when it’s safe.

“I keep using the word surreal over and over again,” she said. “It’s just surreal that what started out as this personal heartache has become this global story in one week.”

Cases throughout valley

According to the Southern Nevada Health District, five others diagnosed with COVID-19 who have died in Clark County as of Tuesday were people in their 50s, 60s or 70s who — like Scully — had underlying medical conditions.

Alinda Addison, 68, of North Las Vegas, died at North Vista Hospital on Thursday, according to the Clark County coroner’s office, which can release patient IDs after death once the health district has confirmed a diagnosis and relatives have been notified.

Maria Mancha Rangel, 71, of Las Vegas, died at Desert Springs Hospital Medical Center on Saturday, according to the coroner’s office.

Jesus Garcia, 66, of Henderson, died at Henderson Hospital on Sunday, according to the coroner’s office.

Relatives for Addison, Rangel and Garcia could not be reached. Two others, whose deaths were announced Tuesday afternoon, had not yet been identified — a woman in her 50s and a man in his 70s.

“My condolences go out to the families and the public as a whole during these difficult times,” Clark County Coroner John Fudenberg said. “We are continuing to monitor the pandemic from our perspective and will ensure that we’re transparent with the data so that the public has up-to-date information as we can provide it.”

As of Tuesday afternoon, Nevada has seen 278 positive COVID-19 cases, with more than 240 in Clark County.

Contact Rachel Crosby at rcrosby@reviewjournal.com or 702-477-3801. Follow @rachelacrosby on Twitter.

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