My daughter, Lara Casalotti, who has died aged 30, had a reluctant media moment in 2016 when the Match4Lara campaign reverberated through national and international media. Diagnosed with a blood cancer (acute myeloid leukaemia), Lara needed a stem-cell transplant. When she learned that patients with black and minority-ethnic backgrounds like herself have a significantly smaller chance of finding a genetically matched stem-cell donor, Lara agreed to be the face and soul of a campaign to diversify the stem-cell registry for all.
Match4Lara, through a tremendous effort by her friends, family, Anthony Nolan and other organisations, registered more than 50,000 new stem-cell donors of more diverse backgrounds than previously on the registers. Many Match4Lara registrees have gone on to donate and save lives. Lara was fortunate that a generous donor was on the register and she received a transplant that gave her precious additional years.
Aware of her privileges, Lara was an advocate of social justice especially freedom of movement. As a holder of four nationalities – US by birth, Thai and Italian from parents, and UK, acquired by residency from the age of six – she deeply valued internationalism and saw national borders as an injustice. At Bristol University she joined Star (Student Action for Refugees), and followed her passion into a career as a case worker at the British Red Cross, supporting asylum seekers navigating the “hostile environment”, and as a coordinator and consultant for Asylos, an organisation that provides legal services for asylum seekers.
Throughout her years of cancer treatment, she continued working for vulnerable people, often holding calls between blood transfusions. Though the gravity of refugees’ struggles at times affected her own mental health, she transformed that weight into resolve and positivity.
Born in Rockville, Maryland, to me, a senior lecturer in biomedical science at the University of East London, and my wife, Supanya Lamsam, a retired health consultant on HIV/Aids and magistrate, Lara attended South Hampstead high school. From there she went on to study geography at Bristol University.
Lara nurtured close relationships with many dear friends and close family, with whom she shared her love of food, global music, art, group games, pottery classes and, especially, travel. She lived life openly, welcoming others into genuine and warm friendships.
Her health was supported and managed magnificently by the NHS staff of University College hospital, London. She was cared for by many nurses, healthcare assistants, doctors and other support staff to whom our whole family is immensely grateful. Despite multiple relapses, transplants and treatments, what stays in the memory of those who have known Lara is her infectious smile.
Lara impacted many lives through her work for justice and her deep, loving relationships. She is survived by Supanya, me and her brother, Seb.