Copyright © 2021 Albuquerque Journal
When he was a kid, Danny McNair used to spend a month of every summer with his family in a cabin in Taos. It’s where his dad taught him a love of fishing.
When he started dating Kay, she went with the family, and the couple fell in love with the charms of northern New Mexico. That was more than 50 years ago.
Earlier this year, after Danny retired from his landscaping business in December, the McNairs decided it was time to leave their home in Houston and move to Taos.
They were excited to nab a three-bedroom home being built on more than an acre in a mountainous subdivision, although Danny worried it wouldn’t have enough parking for all their family and friends who would come visit.
But in late summer, still living in a casita in town, they fell ill with COVID-19.
Neither had been vaccinated because, Kay said, Danny had fallen under the sway of a holistic doctor who advised against it.
Danny died of the virus after 17 days in the hospital. It was Sept. 11 – his 71st birthday.
“I asked Danny when he was in the hospital – when he was still able to speak – I said, ‘Do you regret not taking the vaccine?’ ” Kay said. “He said, ‘Yeah.’ ”
She said now that she’s recovered, she plans to get vaccinated.
Danny – “in all modesty the best landscape designer in Houston” – had his work featured in a magazine and had scores of devoted clients who have been reaching out to Kay since his death. Describing her husband as an artist and “a true Texas gentleman,” Kay said he was always nice to everybody.
“I kind of gauge people by how they treat, like, wait staff and stuff like that,” Kay said. “You know, the waiter or waitress was a friend before the evening was over, because he was just so interested in their lives and aspirations and all that. He was one of the good guys, really good guys.”
She said he suffered from fibromyalgia and had a hard time finding a doctor who would treat him and take the illness seriously. Then, about 20 years ago, he met a Houston area doctor who conducts holistic nutrition seminars across the country on “a wide variety of radical intervention nutrition topics.”
The doctor’s treatments seemed to work, and Kay said Danny “put this guy up there on the pedestal,” “thought he hung the moon” and “could qualify for sainthood.”
But she called him “Danny’s voodoo doctor,” recounting how her husband was spending a thousand dollars a month on supplements.
When the pandemic began, she said, the doctor told them they didn’t need to be vaccinated and should instead get treatments and immunity-boosting pills from him. She said they made sure to wear masks, especially when required in New Mexico, and were happy to visit with family members outside and at a distance.
In August, Kay came down with COVID – an experience she said mirrored the flu. Then, Danny got it.
He tried to reach the doctor, hoping for the supplements he’d been told would cure him.
“He finally got the cure the night before I ended up taking him to the urgent care in Taos,” Kay said. “He only got one dose of it, and it was far too late … his lungs were already too compromised to respond to anything. They were full of COVID; they looked white.”
She said she now thinks the doctor should have recommended that Danny be vaccinated, given his underlying conditions of high blood pressure, an abnormal heartbeat and years of a persistent cough.
The second line of Danny’s obituary says: “He put his faith in a holistic practitioner in Houston that he had followed for years who advised Danny against taking the vaccine.”
Kay said she wanted to be honest about what happened and she felt like the elephant in the room was going to be the question of whether he was vaccinated.
“I didn’t want his death to be in vain,” Kay said. “I didn’t want people to think he was stupid for not taking it. I wanted them to know that he put his faith in that guy, and that was, you know, the whole reason why he did not take the vaccine.”
When an artist planted more than 600,000 white flags on the National Mall in honor of those lost to COVID-19, Kay submitted Danny’s name to be included. Now she’s alone unpacking the couple’s belongings in their new house. Watching the first snow made her tear up, remembering how excited they were to see the change of seasons in Taos.
“I guess it’s almost good that we didn’t live here together, because I don’t have memories of him in this house,” Kay said. “But yeah … there’s a lot of times, I want to tell him something.”