DECATUR, AL (WAFF) - You can't tell at first sight, but Bill Rudolph has struggled with a heart problem.
"I have atrial fibrillation," Rudolph explained. The heart doesn't beat as it normally should. I really think I've had this for over 30 years, which is miraculous that in those 30 years I haven't had a stroke."
When the heart doesn't beat correctly, blood can pool in the atrium and can clot.
Rudolph, a college physical education teacher and coach, knew something was wrong.
"Coach Sharmin and I used to swim in the swimming pool every day, and I'd swim one length of the pool and I'd get short of breath and have to stop and hang onto the side of the pool. When I got my breath back, I'd go ahead and do the rest of my laps," he said.
He says he would get a flutter in his throat and feel strange.
"I know I'm one of the few that recognizes symptoms as soon as they happen. I have a roommate from college that never knows when he's out, which makes it extremely dangerous," said Rudolph.
Doctors started with drugs and moved to an ablation. The first involved burning the outside of the heart.
"They placed three tubes; two of them about the size of a straw in my femoral artery, and went up through my artery and into my heart and burned in the upper chamber - those areas of the heart that were short circuiting," he said.
Keep in mind, there's no guarantee the procedure will work. Rudolph had the procedure done previously, and he was told it works about half the time.
"They go in and burn the inside of the atrium, and take those short circuits out so that you can get back into rhythm," said Rudolph.
And if the "tune ups" don't work?
"A pacemaker would be a last resort if they can't get it tuned up to where it will stay in rhythm," he said.
Something he hopes he will not need.
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