If it weren't for her high school friend Chad, BillieJo Partridge may not be in the place she's in today -- happy, healthy and dancing.
About four years ago, he died suddenly. There was something wrong with his heart, and it caught him, his family and friends off guard.
About the same time, Partridge and another friend started walking up and down Stone Mountain daily. The more she walked, the more she got a nagging feeling.
"Something was going on with my heart; I could feel something," she said. "So, when he passed, it was kind of like a wake up call that I needed to get that checked out, so I did."
At the time, Partridge says she also had gained a lot of weight. At her heaviest, she was 5 feet 4 and 160 pounds. "For me, that was too big," she said.
After visiting a cardiologist, she learned that she had a tricuspid valve disease, a condition in which the valve between the two right heart chambers doesn't function properly.
The doctors wanted her to do more to keep her heart healthy. Walking up and down Stone Mountain wasn't exactly working because Partridge wasn't losing any weight.
"It was strengthening a little bit, but I needed something else," she said. "And, I needed to lose weight, and no stress."
First stop, yoga class. But, in the next room, Zumba music played. The sounds reminded her of her childhood, growing up to music of her father's Latin American heritage.
"I just had to go in there and dance," she recalled. "So, I started dancing and laughing at myself, and I never went back to yoga."
After years of back-and-forth dieting with no lasting results, the extra pounds finally started to shed.
"I'm not on any medications," she said. "I do have to watch what I eat, so that I don't gain the weight back, but for two and half years, my heart is healthier."
Partridge, a mother of two who recently celebrated her 42nd birthday, said she feels she's the most healthiest now.
Knowing what kind of benefits Zumba brought to her, Partridge started teaching Zumba a couple of years ago. She's been in her current facility, located at 1025 Killian Hill Road, for about a six months.
All sorts of people show up for class: old and young, fit and not-so-fit, men and women. The oldest has been a woman in her 80s. Partridge says students don't have to be great dancers to benefit from Zumba.
Even when she first learned about Zumba, Partridge thought "there's no way you will catch me doing any of that."
Now, she knows "it's for everybody."
"We're all doing the same thing: We're all trying to stay healthy," she said.
Although Zumba is what Partridge does for work, she doesn't consider it laborious. She's made great friends in the process. It's still fun, and it's still a hobby.
And, that's exactly how Partridge wants it to stay.