Billy Stapleton

Catonsville resident Billy Stapleton and his mother, Theresa Thomas, will be among 85 people scheduled to rappel down the Baltimore Marriott Waterfront hotel June 9 as part of the National Kidney Foundation's third annual Rappel for Kidney Health Fundraiser. Stapleton's mother donated her kidney to him several years ago. (Photo by Noah Scialom / May 31, 2012)

A fear of heights usually keeps Billy Stapleton grounded.

Only once in the past dozen years has the Catonsville resident ever flown on an airplane and that caused the same reaction he usually has when he confronts his fear: his body temperature rose and he perspired.

On June 9, Stapleton will do something that might give even the most-vertigo-resistant people pause.

The 27-year-old will rappel down the 32-story Baltimore Marriott Waterfront Hotel to raise funds and awareness for the National Kidney Foundation of Maryland.

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"It's kind of 'cross the item off your bucket list' kind of thing and a way to conquer my fear of heights," Stapleton said.

Stapleton decided to take part following last year's event in which participants descended from the 17-story Canton Crossing Tower.

Much to Stapleton's initial dismay, the distance for this year's third annual Rappel for Kidney Health will be nearly double that.

"At the time, I didn't think it was going to be as bad as it's going to be," said Stapleton, who found out the height of the building after he signed up.

To rappel, each participant must raise $1,000.

As of May 30, Stapleton had raised $1,100 by having friends and co-workers donate money through a website set up by the National Kidney Foundation.

The money raised supports patient services, education and research efforts, the release stated.

In 2010, the most recent year data was available, more than 20 million Americans age 20 or older — about 10 percent of the population — had chronic kidney disease, according to the website of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health.

"Not to take anything away from other illnesses or other diseases, but it's really not something talked about," Stapleton said of kidney disease. "I feel like kidney disease ranks up there right with anything else."

He should know. Six years ago, Stapleton received a kidney transplant.

That made him one of 18,059 Americans who had undergone the operation, according to the website of the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, a part of the National Institutes of Health

Stapleton's mother, Theresa Thomas, provided the organ.

She recalled how, seven years ago, her son had complained of a headache for weeks but never went to a doctor.

When they took him to the hospital, blood tests showed his kidneys had less than five percent of their function, Thomas said.

The next day, her son had a catheter in his chest for dialysis.

"Looking back on it, there were signs, but we had no idea," she said, noting that he had complained of back pain and swelling in his ankles before the headaches.