Wildcat Tracks: Annie Dudley Arehart ’03
As a Christian in the workplace, we may struggle to find ways to serve the Lord amidst our daily routine. Some careers, like those in the medical field, can be especially challenging. How can we share our faith with people who are so obviously hurting? Yet, to be a doctor or nurse is truly serving Christ, as He commands us to care for one another. In particular, the healthy are called upon to look after the weak in their times of need.
Annie Arehart began her career as an EMT/paramedic. While working in labor and delivery, she pursued her education in nursing. Annie is currently an RNFA (Registered Nurse First Assistant) at BJC West County Hospital. She is also involved with running the local non-profit The Synapsory, which was established to support children overwhelmed by environmental and neurological overstimulation.
Annie credits her experience at Westminster with laying a foundation for her life today. “One of the most significant and cherished memories that stands out is spirit week. It was a perfect blend of unity and competition. This experience has had a lasting impact on my adult life, teaching me the importance of balancing teamwork and rivalry in the ‘real’ world,’ Annie said. Teachers like Randy Schloma sparked an interest in the medical field, while Susie Pike knew how to bring on the fun. “Her classroom was filled floor to ceiling with toys! This skill has accompanied me throughout my entire adult life and has greatly contributed to my ability to connect with children. I am unafraid to engage with them on their level and participate in silly games. Interestingly, I firmly believe that children teach me more than I could ever teach them.”
“Sherry Blough – She would join me in prayer almost every day. She guided me on a spiritual path of prayer and meditation, which I still practice today. Each morning, I begin with gratitude meditation and pray for healing hands before starting my work day or entering surgery. Sherry provided me with the necessary tools to strengthen my faith, and I am immensely grateful for her guidance.”
Annie became involved with The Synapsory for a very personal reason. “On November 18th, 2020, amidst a world pandemic, my son Zack was born with a rare cardiac anomaly – an aberrant right subclavian artery with an esophageal vascular ring. In simpler terms, this means that the artery supplying blood to his right arm originates from his aorta instead of his heart and wraps around his esophagus,” Annie explained. “I had no prior knowledge of his condition before his birth. The symptoms associated with this condition can range from being asymptomatic to ‘failure to thrive.’ In Zack’s case, his symptoms include pain, difficulty feeding, and gastric reflux — but above all, pain. Every beat of his little heart causes him pain.”
While attempting to find resources to help Zack, Annie was dismayed to discover she didn’t qualify for various special needs programs. “Feeling overwhelmed and desperately in need of assistance, I reached out to 34 different facilities, applying for their respite programs, only to be met with denials. That is until I made the 35th call. Little did I know that this call would not only become a lifeline for my family but also trigger a ripple effect that would positively impact the lives of hundreds of children and families with special needs. By the grace of God, the 35th call was answered by Terrie Desloge, the founder and president of The Synapsory. Without hesitation, she extended a helping hand.”
Even amid a global pandemic, Annie and her family soon received respite care. “I was given the opportunity to take a step back, breathe, and care for myself and my older daughter. I was even able to actively attend church again, thanks to the respite care and the state-of-the-art sensory/motor room in my home church, provided by The Synapsory. It felt strange for me to accept help and be on the receiving end, as I was used to being the one offering assistance. However, in that moment of helplessness and emptiness, I realized that I had nothing to give.”
Annie promised Terrie that once she reached a better place, she would give back, pay it forward, and help others. “I am proud to say that I have remained true to that promise. In 2022, I began volunteering for The Synapsory, offering my services in any way I could. Eventually, Terrie hired me as her “right hand” and Community Project Manager. I do not take this responsibility lightly, as I firmly believe that God has created each individual with a purpose, and it is our duty to discover that purpose and let His light shine through our actions.”
Services provided through The Synapsory focus on three main areas: sensory/motor rooms, calming kits, and training. By making these services available throughout the St. Louis area, Annie has seen the results of their mission pay off. “One of my favorite and recent success stories involves a West County police officer using a Calming Kit to successfully bring back a nonverbal autistic 10-year-old who had run away and ended up in a stranger’s pool. The officer showed the child a pop-it toy from the kit, prompting him to come out of the pool and sit down. The child then got dressed and willingly sat in the police car, going home with the entire Calming Kit. It made the situation effortless and prevented anyone from getting wet!”
For more information or to support The Synapsory: www.thesynapsory.org