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David Thurston, a biology and geology teacher at Los Alamos High School, was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) at the end of the school year.
While Thurston is undergoing treatment at the University of New Mexico Hospital in Albuquerque, high school students have been busy finding ways to support him. He will soon be heading out to California for a bone marrow transplant.
“Mr. Thurston has a way of bringing his subjects to life and making them exciting for his students,” said Bryn Smith, an advanced bio student from the 2008-09 school year. ”There is never a boring day in one of his classes. He is a remarkable teacher.”
There has been an out-pouring of support. For instance, orange wristbands with “Mr. Thurston Rocks!” printed on them have been sold, with the money going to him and his family. A team for Relay For Life has been created in his name, which will take place on June 26 at Ashley Pond.
Students have also sent Thurston words of encouragement and have visited him in the hospital.
Additionally, a group on Facebook was formed shortly after students learned of his diagnosis, which has allowed Thurston to connect with his students.
The “Mr. Thurston Amusement Society” group has more than 600 students’, a testament to the impact he has had on his students lives beyond his classes.
He was known for wearing a tie everyday to school, so during one of the last weeks of school, a tie drive was held at the high school to collect more ties for him. His collection is large enough that he can make it through most of the school year without wearing the same tie twice.
Besides all of the activities that the students have done to support him, a fund has been set up at Los Alamos National Bank called the “Dave Thurston Fund” to accept donations from the community can donate to. All the money in the fund will go towards helping pay for his treatment.
Thurston’s ties is not his only unique collection. His classroom was filled with fish tanks, two iguanas and an axolotl, a type of salamander.
According to the Mayo Clinic website, acute myelogenous leukemia is caused by mutations to DNA in the developing cells in bone marrow.
The cancerous cells are stronger than the regular blood cells, allowing them to overcrowd the healthy normally functioning blood cells. There are eight subtypes of AML. Based on what subtype an individual has, treatment varies.
More than 11,900 cases of AML are diagnosed each year in the United States, according to the National Marrow Donor Program. Because the disease is aggressive, treatment begins as soon after the diagnosis as possible.