Al Hudson pictured with two daughters.
Al Hudson celebrates his 100th birthday with his daughters Emily Pickering (left) and Rosemary Overton (right).

Parkwest rehab patient celebrates 100 strong years

In the year 1919, the Grand Canyon became a national park, the first pop-up toaster was invented and Al Hudson was born. One hundred years later, people are still visiting the Grand Canyon, toast is still a breakfast staple — and Hudson continues to inspire those who know him.

The centenarian says having a happy life is pretty simple. It’s a combination of enduring faith, a good attitude and an untiring work ethic. “My lifestyle has been one of working hard at anything I do, doing the best I can and enjoying it,” Hudson says. “I love to make friends, meet people and love them as I love myself.”

Hudson imparted his wisdom to an eager audience at a birthday party hosted May 8 by Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation, where Hudson is a role model.

“I just want you to know, this guy is an inspiration to everybody in this group,” says John Leonard, who works out with Hudson on a regular basis. “You can see certain exercises he does with great vigor and others are harder for him, but it doesn’t matter. He’s here and he does them. If he can do it, there’s no excuse for us not to do it.” That level of inspiration is what prompted his friends at rehab to join Hudson’s birthday celebration. Cake, cards and plenty of well wishes in a
festive environment served as simple reminders of a life lived well.

Al Hudson riding stationary bike.A Setback and a Comeback

In September of 2014 Hudson suffered a heart attack and was rushed to Parkwest Medical Center.
Two stents were placed in his heart, and about a month later he began his comeback at Parkwest Cardiopulmonary Rehabilitation. After 36 visits of prescribed rehab, Hudson chose to continue attending therapy sessions. He now exercises there three times a week with plenty of friends around him and medical professionals nearby.

“I enjoy it here, and I know that it benefits me because I can tell,” Hudson says. “All these fine people and friends that you meet is a wonderful thing. The staff is just unbelievably helpful. It’s just a really good experience.” Hudson has had a lifetime of experiences, but one of his greatest achievements was receiving the first Master Class Award presented by the East Tennessee Woodworker’s Guild. It was recognition of Hudson’s excellence in craftsmanship and his willingness to share his skill with others. To create one of his masterpieces, Hudson takes a piece of wood, patiently smooths out the rough places and knots, then polishes it. These days, he applies the same patient persistence and polish to his exercise.

Nurse Karen with Al and nurse Amy.
Cardiac rehab nurses Karen Kirkland (left) and Amy Dale (right) helped plan the 100th birthday celebration for Mr. Hudson.

Quality of Life for a Long Life

The extended rehab program Hudson is a part of is referred to as “Phase Three.” It is offered to former heart and lung patients who want to use the rehab facility long-term. Case manager Karen Kirkland, RN, explains it’s a great way for someone like Hudson to get a good workout under the watchful eye of medical professionals.

“We have a physician available in case there is any kind of medical problem that arises while they’re here,” Kirkland says. “We also have exercise physiologists and nurses who can answer questions for them and help them to alter or increase their exercise based on any kind of
health issues that are going on.” “When he had his heart attack four and a half years ago, we expected he would start going downhill rather quickly,” says Emily Pinkering, one of his daughters. “But he seems to have gotten even better. He loves coming to cardiac rehab, and to be getting up that early and ‘getting at it’ at his age is just incredible.”

For many patients, the camaraderie that develops is almost as important as the exercise. Participants build a sense of community and hold each other accountable. “One reason he’s done so well is he’s just always had something to do and something to look forward to,” says daughter Rosemary Overton. “Nothing seems to get him down.” Like the ingredients for a perfect birthday cake, Al Hudson has had all the right ingredients for a long and fulfilling life. That includes a positive outlook on life, a never-ending drive to finish what he starts, and taking care of himself inside and out.

Learn More About Outpatient Cardiac Rehab

If you find yourself hospitalized with heart disease, your doctor will most likely recommend cardiac rehabilitation. Getting professional help in your recovery is important, and patients have a right to choose the place where they participate in rehabilitation.

Case manager Karen Kirkland, RN, works with patients in the Parkwest Cardiac Rehabilitation Outpatient Program (CROP). Patients who have experienced a “cardiac event” are prescribed a program of education and exercise to help their recovery and improve their odds for avoiding future visits to the hospital. “It boosts their confidence level,” Kirkland says, “and lessens their anxiety.”

Patients meet with a case manager for evaluation, and usually follow a schedule of exercise sessions of up to five days per week for two to three months. This includes meeting with an exercise physiologist for a program specifically tailored to the patient’s personal needs and ability. That exercise can include treadmills, arm ergometers, stationary bicycles, elliptical machines, weights, and steps. Each patient wears a heart monitor and is constantly being evaluated. The exercise program is updated as the patient progresses. CROP also includes classes that cover topics like cooking heart healthy foods and interpreting what’s on food labels at the grocery store. It’s a well-rounded approach to helping heart patients.

After patients finish the program of prescribed exercise and education, they have the opportunity to continue exercising for a monthly fee. This “Phase Three” program gives patients the benefits they would get from exercising at a commercial fitness center, along with the added safeguard of medical supervision. “It’s available to all patients who have heart or pulmonary issues,” Kirkland says. “They also can have a spouse or loved one join them in the program.” Learn more about cardiopulmonary rehabilitation and heart health at,
or call Parkwest at (865) 531-5560.