It takes more effort for Sally Caldwell to navigate Texas State’s hills than it does for an average student.
Caldwell scans her ID at the basement door of the Alkek Library to avoid taking the stairs or ramps on her way to the LBJ Student Center. She then rides an elevator up to the second floor of the library. Despite these shortcuts, she still has to make part of the hike to the Student Center. The sociology associate professor must take these alternative routes on a daily basis because she was diagnosed with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease seven years ago. The illness causes lung flare-ups, affecting her ability to breathe.
The constant possibility of her disease flaring up is what brought Caldwell to the Feb. 18 Office of Disability Services meeting. There she requested that benches be placed in the doorways of buildings throughout campus. Caldwell is one of multiple members of the Texas State community who has difficulty navigating the campus because of an illness or disability. This has led to an initiative to make Texas State’s facilities more accessible.
“This disease is absolutely maddening because you can be just feeling great, (but) then something happens and you are taken. It’s very scary,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said in a Feb. 19 University Star article she has come close to collapsing numerous times upon entering a building on campus.
“Sometimes I get to a door and think, ‘These are my last few moments on earth,’” Caldwell said in the article.
Clint-Michael Reneau, director of the Office of Disability Services, said he appreciates Caldwell bringing the addition of benches in building entryways to his attention.
“It’s on an ongoing list to make sure that we have these benches be placed,” Reneau said. “Our plan is to measure the entryways for spacing and size.”
Reneau said he and Don Compton, associate director of Facilities Planning Design, have been working to identify the main entryways for each building on campus.
In the meantime, Caldwell said she checks with a lung transplant team in Houston multiple times each year.
“There’s a very good chance that I’ll be placed on the list for a transplant,” Caldwell said.
Caldwell said she will receive a single or double lung transplant after getting on the list. Caldwell said her next hospital visit will be with heart experts to determine if she is healthy enough for the operation.
Kay Newling, sociology senior lecturer, said she would describe Caldwell’s attitude throughout her ailment as “incredibly resilient” and “determined.” Newling said she met the faculty member 10 years ago as a student in Caldwell’s class.
“(Caldwell) has had to put up with quite a few occasions where she’s been so sick that she’s been hospitalized,” Caldwell said. “But she loves teaching and will basically knock herself out to continue.”
Caldwell said her insurance company has paid for more than $10,000 in medication fees to alleviate the illness in the past year.
Caldwell returned to her office after being hospitalized for the duration of last November to find notes that read “sugarpie” and “glad to have you back” scattered across the desk. These notes were a reminder of the impact she has had on Texas State.
Caldwell said she truly missed her students during November’s extended hospital stay.
“I like to take a walk around campus at the beginning of each semester just to look at the students,” Caldwell said. “Kind of dream it all in and think about it. Because as far as I’m concerned, teaching is the definition of who I am.”