Category Archives: People

Floodwater May Be Muddy but Health Threats Are Clear

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Flood w-CPDFirst of all, our hearts go out to the victims and people suffering from Hurricane Harvey.

What can we learn from this catastrophic storm – especially for residents living in flood-prone areas?

I address this question, because the danger of flooding is not just drowning. Health hazards under seemingly calm floodwater cannot be taken lightly, and they will persist, in some cases, for a long time.

Therefore, I’m going to highlight what health hazards come with flooding and how your preparedness can help avoid them.

Let’s start with – Types of Health Hazards and Risks

  1. Bacteria and infections: Bacteria can cause infectious diseases. Exposure to contaminated water (e.g. from pathogens, chemicals or wastes) can result in infection and put a risk for other health problems.
  2. Injury: Cuts and harm result from invisible sharp glass or metal fragments.
  3. Stress: Tension is overwhelming, from devastated loss, upset, anxiety, exhaustion and sleep deprivation, etc. Stress may progress to mental health problems such as post-traumatic stress disorder and depression. Inevitably, the emergency responders experience stress as well.
  4. Mosquitoes: Warm, stagnant water is their breeding bed, which increase the prevalence of mosquito-borne diseases such as Zika, West Nile and dengue.
  5. Mold: Mold from water-soaked homes/walls can be harmful because it not only causes allergic reactions but also may worsen other existing health problems.

Next, Strategies and Actions You Can Take (in acronym P.I.C.)

#1 Prepare and Plan prior to flood

The key to effective preparedness is to plan ahead, protect assets, and get everything ready. Never wait till the last minute then act. Here are things you can do:

For care of vulnerable populations

  • Make sure to take care of necessities for babies and pregnant women.
  • Have enough back-up medications for folks with chronic diseases or health problems, and ensure the medications kept in a safe, water- and heat-proof place (e.g. cooler). Likewise, watch over personal medical device safety.
  • Make sure elderly, fragile folks stay in a dependable home/facility. 

For general population

  • Keep a prevention-mindset. Your health is your most valuable asset, as you cannot expect to take all your possessions with you.
  • Have your family’s emergency package/kit ready-to-go.
  • While securing some belongings is essential, it’s important to guard some critical documents such as insurance, health and immunization records.
  • If possible, consider getting the vaccine for TDAP – tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis in case of unforeseen injury.

#2 Implement during and post flood

  • Execute your plan, and ensure vital items at hand when evacuation.
  • Turn off power to avoid any incident from getting electrocuted.
  • Take good care of open wounds to prevent infection, esp. avoid direct contact in water.
  • Pay attention to folks in poor health, because they are at a great risk of heat-related death due to power outage and resultant lack of air conditioning.
  • Always make sure that your drinking water is safe.
  • Maintain hygiene and food safety. Discard any moldy, rotten or illness-risky foods.
  • When cleaning up floodwater, avoid injury. And clean everything in direct contact with water.
  • Clean mold thoroughly, but take caution to the cleaning chemicals because of their potential harm to your body. If necessary, ask for professional help.

#3 Communicate for management and support

Be informed. Follow the instructions or updates on mass flooding from federal or state government and communities. Keep your families and friends posted about your well-being. Support each other in every way possible. 

Final point:

To my knowledge, there is no direct evidence whether Hurricane Harvey is caused by climate change. However, as we all understand, global warming can add to warmer or hotter air, build up more humidity and more moisture, which will increase the intensity of hurricane and consequential damage. Hence, climate change does play a role in deadly storms or weather-related natural disasters.

So, let’s face the reality, take responsible actions to protect the earth and future generations.


Image credit: and CPD

Cancer Cannot Take All Away

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Ron_HigginbothamThis past weekend we gathered together to celebrate Dr. Ronald Eugene Higginbotham’s life after he passed away due to bladder cancer. A cancer diagnose is devastating and the battle to fight cancer, unthinkable. Cancer affects all of us at many levels or in many ways. Reflecting the perspectives on what cancer can and cannot do may ease our pain a little.

When cancer took a loved one’s life, many times it can make us feel like an everlastingly loss. This memorial service provided a vital reminder of Ron’s life and the person we know – a loving husband, father and grandfather, a kind gentleman, an accomplished scientist and engineer, a dedicated church elder, a wise mentor, and a caring friend….

My heart was heavy as I thought of Ron and the blessings he brought to those around him. Yes, cancer damaged Ron’s body and took his life. However, what cancer didn’t and cannot take away from him may be included in, but not limited to, the following list:

  • His deep love to his wife and family
  • His genuine smile and the spirit of peace
  • His unwavering faith and devotion to the Lord
  • His kind acts that helped those people in need
  • The way he made everyone feel welcomed and special
  • The way he paused and greeted people silently before addressing the church attendants
  • The fun time he spent with his children, grandchildren and friends
  • The positive life he had lived

Importantly, all happy and precious memories that he left and we shared will be long-lasting.

Therefore, folks, whether you’re fighting cancer right now or you’ve survived cancer – also loved ones, families and friends, let us comfort each other with this great reminder: Cancer cannot take all away from us – including love, peace, spirit, faith, courage, values, characters, memories, and so much more. After all, our hope and effort to cure cancer cannot be taken away!


Image credit:

Proven Strategies for Prevention of Age-Associated Chronic Illnesses

By Hui Xie-Zukauskas

Aging_4C91926C-FDEB-4B37-903B0611D64C202DDo you know that 2 billion people will be (aged) 60 and older by 2050? According to statistics, between 2000 and 2050, the world’s population of 60+ years old will double from about 11% to 22%.

Aging is inevitable. Aging is a complex process too, which has a negative impact on various body systems and their functions. As you age, accumulated damage to the cells, increased burden of the immune response, and chronically stimulated inflammation, along with genetic and environmental risk factors, all intensify in your body.

Aging is the major risk factor for the predominant killer diseases such as cardiovascular disease and cancer, especially in developed countries or in the population living a sedentary lifestyle and eating a Western diet.

The good news: Age-associated chronic diseases, such as cancer, heart disease, stroke and diabetes are largely preventable! The prevention can be achieved mostly by lifestyle modification. How well we age depends on many factors, including what we eat, how physically active we are, and how much, how long we are exposed to health risks such as smoking, over-consumption of alcohol, or harmful, toxic chemicals/substances.

Taking care of yourself should be a top priority and it’s never too late to do so. Here are some key strategies:

1.      Maintain a healthy weight and avoid abdominal obesity. Excessive calorie intake and a sedentary lifestyle cause abdominal obesity, as we discussed previously.
2.      Have a diet rich in nutrients and antioxidants, such as fruits, vegetables, fish, beans, whole grains, nuts and seeds.
3.      Avoid or limit high-fat, high-sugar foodstuff and excessive salt intake from packaged or processed foods.
4.      Participate in physical activities regularly.
5.      Watch your numbers (cholesterol, blood sugar, etc), keep your blood pressure normal, and schedule routine cancer screening.
6.      Remember a good night’s sleep.

Let’s face it. You cannot help getting old, but you don’t have to get old. Fortunately, new technologies can make you look and feel young. However, if you want to age gracefully and brilliantly, place a strong focus on the following areas:

  • Practice gratitude. Gratitude is the key to happiness, so keep counting your blessings. “There’s always a lot to be thankful for if you take time to look for it. For example, I am sitting here thinking how nice it is that wrinkles don’t hurt.” I like this quote from the Unknown. Studies show that people who are always grateful and practice gratitude in their lives tend to have more peaceful and harmonious existences than those who do not.
  • Learn, learn and learn. It’s never too old to learn. Learning keeps you mentally sharp and spiritually young. Try to learn something every day and every year, whether it is from reading or from doing, whether it is a skill or a sport. Purposefully challenge your mental ability in fun ways (e.g. puzzles and games).
  • Maintain friendship. It helps your mental and emotional well-being. Keep a circle of people who are positive, uplifting and wise. Also, a connection with your friend(s) from high school or college can kindle a younger spirit.
  • Love, love and love. Love your age. In addition to your love to your family and relationship, there are many ways to show your love, such as pursuing your passion, giving to your community, caring and helping others, etc.

Exercising the physical, mental and spiritual areas outlined above can have additional health benefits in the prevention of a variety of age-associated chronic diseases. At the end, one of humanity’s greatest dreams is to have a long, productive life in a healthy, youthful body.

Image credit: By mealsonwheelspeople

A Special Memory of Martha

We lost Martha Anne Thornburg, 52, recently. I was always inspired by her smile and gratitude even during those difficult days of fighting cancer. Her loving husband of 27 years, Jon E. Thornburg wrote a touching and beautiful letter to Martha at her funeral service. I sincerely appreciate his sharing this special memory here.

“For my dear Martha,

On our first date, we came across a dog hit by a car, lying on the side of the road. We decided to pick it up and take it to the vet clinic at Purdue. That was one of the first clues of Martha’s love for strays; dogs, cats, and later on she even agreed to take me in and give my life purpose. She had a boundless love for family and friends and heaven help those that ever tried to hurt someone she loved.

Martha had a personality and a smile that was contagious. That smile, given often, given freely, and given genuinely; you just had to love her. She was diligent and loved puzzles and to solve problems. When presented a problem she would jump into it and find a dozen ways to solve it while making it seem so simple. As many know, anyone who received teasing by Martha knew another side of her personality. She loved to laugh, joke and tease; and she could keep a straight face through the punch line of a prank or joke.

Martha loved to give and to share. She gave of herself; and what she had without limits, usually as long as nobody knew she was the one giving. I do not believe she ever took a bow or showed off anything, even though she had volumes of accomplishments to show and brag on, but that wasn’t her way, except for her kids. She was forever proud of Jessica, Andrea, and Jimmy. She raised three children who have kind and tender hearts, giving and forgiving, polite and a strong sense of family and friendship. She loved and was proud of her babies.

Martha loved to sing, she could be walking along, sitting, and reading or watching a show; or doing almost anything, and a song would come to her and she would start singing. Sometimes when driving she would have to stay in the car a little longer when stopped so the song on the radio could finish, and she was usually singing along with it.

Martha grew daily in her spirituality in her love of Christ and her awe and fear of GOD. She studied the word, questioned and sought answers, and had the faith of no one else I know. When the Holy Spirit came to her, she accepted and was whole-heartedly grateful, and she knew her life had really begun. She truly put her love, trust and soul in God’s hands.

I am going to miss her. I don’t know why Martha loved me, or ever agreed to be my bride, but I’m eternally grateful and proud she did. I loved her and always will.”

Our deepest condolences to Martha’s family.

My Memory of Herb

I was so saddened to hear about the passing of Herb McCullough after he lost the battle to cancer.

Cancer took another precious life. And it just happened too quickly for me. Although I experienced how hard it was when my dad passed away from lung cancer, I cannot imagine what this is like for his family.

When I first met Herb at a business meeting about two years ago, I captured his gentlemanly side, plus his not so obvious “joker” side. When I think of Herb, I see a nice man, down to earth, friendly, kind, and helpful. He loved his daughter. He got excited when he came up with a business idea, no matter what it was.

When I think of Herb, I see a good businessman. One thing about him was his punctuality. He was always on time for an appointment or service. Another striking thing about him was his mastery of plumbing. He could spot a problem precisely and solved it efficiently—even his wall cutting was so neat. I was quite impressed with how he fixed our bathroom plumbing system. “This is Herb. He is a master plumber.” That was how I always introduced him to people. Actually, he was quite fun to be around, too.

When I think of Herb, I see his strong faith in God. After he was diagnosed with prostate cancer, I witnessed his emotional transition from understandable anger to inner peace. I also saw his physical improvement, from a seriously ill condition to getting back to normal and stabilized for several months. In fact, his situation had gotten better to the point where he was able to keep up a part-time business. I talked with him about what inspired and sustained him since he did not take medicine or go through any therapy. He attributed all his recovery to his faith in God, in addition to his daily diet that included nutrient-rich juice. I was concerned about his financial needs in light of his illness and the effects that the economic downturn was having on his part-time business. Yet he expressed amazing gratitude that God had been providing him enough to survive, although it would not be enough for many people.

My heart is heavy. I lost a business associate, and a friend. In Herb, I saw an ordinary person, just one of us, living in peace, kindness, and gratitude, doing his best to survive while serving others.

My deepest condolences to his family.

Life goes on. Let’s win as many battles as we can.