THE mother of the student at the centre of an international campaign to find a rare stem cell donor is urging people to attend a donor drive in Glasgow on Wednesday to find a life-saving match for her daughter.
24-year-old Lara Casalotti from London was diagnosed with aggressive leukaemia just before Christmas.
She urgently needs to find a stem cell donor within the next few weeks to save her life, but her Chinese-Thai and Italian mixed race heritage makes it very hard to find a match.
The campaign to find a match for Lara has gone international and attracted the support of celebrities such as JK Rowling, Mark Wahlberg, Gareth Bale and Stephen Fry.
It’s even reached the House of Commons with David Cameron at Prime Minister’s Questions giving his backing to the campaign.
A series of events are being staged around the nation to recruit more donors, particularly those who are mixed race as there is an acute shortage of such donors.
On Wednesday 3rd, Glasgow will host a donor drive at Queen Margaret Students Union, Glasgow University at 10am to 8pm. Anyone 16 to 30 can attend. They need to not drink, eat, smoke or chew gum for 30 minutes beforehand.
Speaking from University College Hospital in London, where Lara is undergoing chemotherapy, her mother, Supanya Lamsam said: “We’ve been totally overwhelmed by the kindness of total strangers wanting to help. We’re trying to find a needle in a haystack and need all the help we can get.
“All the publicity is fantastic but we need to convert that into people actually getting tested. People can turn up at these donor drives and literally just need to spit in a tube to be tested.
“We’re really up against the clock as it can take over a month for their saliva to be fully checked to see if it’s a match for Lara or any other patients. If you turn out to be a match, donating stem cells is as easy as giving blood.
“There’s no painful operation involved. The whole process is so simple yet will give someone the chance of life.”
Lisa Petzal, who works in Glasgow, is a close friend of Lara and helping to organise the donor drive. Lisa said: “Lara’s such an incredible person. She’s given so much to the community in all the work she’s done. So it’s only right we come together to help her and other’s in her situation.
“This donor drive isn’t just for students; it’s for anyone aged 16 to 30.
“Doctors say Lara’s best chance of finding a match is among people who are mixed race or have some Asian heritage. But everyone should come forward. You could be a match for someone else who needs a life-saving donor. Most donors are total strangers.
Yasmin Moore is also helping organise the event: “We’ll be at Queen Margaret Student Union from 10am to 8pm. Do please come along. It will take just a few minutes of your time, but could save Lara’s life. If you can’t make it, you can order a kit online from Anthony Nolan if your’re 16-30 or from Delete Blood Cancer UK if you’re 18-55.”