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If someone asks “Are you afraid of heights?” find out why before answering

Here’s a little word of advice: If someone asks if you’re afraid of heights, don’t answer the question until you find out why they are asking.

My friend Jill Docking called one evening and asked that very question. I told her “no, not really afraid of heights as long as I can hold on to something.”

In 15 seconds she had me agreeing to rappel down the side of the Ambassador Hotel for a good cause, Project Access. She called several weeks ago, but my goodness how Aug. 29 did roll around quickly. Time to get my game face on. But it wasn’t my face I was most worried about. It dawned on me that you rappel in a semi- sitting position. All of those on the sidewalk looking up would see my rear end descending which I hope is certainly not my best side.

When I told my husband of this concern he pretended to be watching me, looked up, threw his arms up and yelled, “Watch out!” That was followed by “Is there a bullseye painted on the sidewalk?”

Ever supportive, he went with me to the Ambassador. We watched while a couple of people rappelled down the Douglas side of the building. They made it fine. Said it was fun. Piece of cake.

My first moment of doubt came when I signed a disclaimer that basically said I was doing this voluntarily and if I was injured or killed I was the one to blame. Yes, the word “death” was on the paper. Being the wife of a lawyer I read the whole darn thing. As I read, Mick Cayless, explained that thousands of people have rappelled and no one has ever been injured. Except one. My pen stopped mid signature. “It was a bee sting,” he said.

After initialing and signing the form I suddenly wanted this whole thing to be over. But I wasn’t about to back out. Every news release I’d seen had my name in it saying I was going “Over the Edge.” I decided as I put on the unfashionable gear I had instead “gone around the bend” to agree to it.

I was strapped into a harness, with all kinds of hooks and stuff hanging on it. Next came heavy leather gloves and a helmet. Then it was time to go to the roof. Ropes were strung every which way. First I got very complete instructions from a nice young man who had me practice the feel of sitting in mid-air. I climbed up two rungs of a ladder and learned how to hold a rope in my right hand while my left hand held the clamp thingy to control the speed of descent.

My, what a handsome young man my instructor was. He had a great smile and smelled like sunblock. Then I thought, ‘concentrate Bonnie, you’re 14 stories up for Pete’s sake.’

Okay, I was ready. That is according to the highly qualified and very nice people in charge. The tricky part and the part I didn’t like at all was going over the first ledge to get to the second ledge. I’m sure the architects added that ledge so the building was more beautiful not realizing the inconvenience it would be for people scaling down the side.

You had to sit on the ledge then swing your legs around so it felt like you were going to go straight down head first. Once I was facing the building and sort of sitting in the harness I was fine.

I decided I’d look at the ground when I was half way down and maybe spot my husband and friends. Weird but once I was out on the ledge and pushed off I sort of caught on to the rappelling thing, touching the building with my feet every so often. I went fast so my right palm got really hot from the rope. When I thought I was half way down I stopped and looked. Whoa! Not even close. People looked about the size of Barbie dolls.

I heard someone yell, “You’ve got this Bonnie!” That helped, then I glanced down again and somehow managed to start spinning a bit. So I kicked around looking like a fish that had been caught. I finally got closer to the building.

Before I knew it I was on the sidewalk, feet first even. I put my hand on the shoulder of the man who was unhooking me. He said, “You’re shaking.” Well, no kidding Bucko.

The first person to hug me was Jill Docking. She is on the 4-Wichita board, a support group for the KU School of Medicine-Wichita. A few of us from that group rappelled and many others showed up to cheer.

When Dr. Alex Ammar asked me to be part of the 4-Wichita organization a few years ago, he didn’t mention any Spiderman opportunities. But it’s a great group and I’m extremely impressed with the KU School of Medicine-Wichita.

As I am with Project Access, a program of Central Plains Health Care Partnership, which started donating medical care for uninsured, low-income Sedgwick County residents in 1999.

Nearly 650 physicians, many affiliated with the KU School of Medicine-Wichita, along with 14 dentists, 85 pharmacies and eight hospital systems serve Project Access patients who are eligible and enrolled for a limited period of time to address immediate medical needs. Once a person is enrolled he or she will have access to a variety of specialists, prescription medication, medical equipment and diabetic supplies, physical therapy and Hospice care.

Once I learned about Project Access and had the great support of the 4-Wichita board, I was glad I signed up.

And boy, were my granddaughters impressed when they saw the video. Now I’m “Circus Grammy.”

Reach Bonnie Bing at