Ballet stars' stage show to send nephew with cerebral palsy to US for treatment

Ted Hennessey
Yonah Acosta and Laurretta Summerscales with their four-year-old nephew Dexter Summerscales-Heard: Nigel Norrington

Two ballet dancers from one of Europe’s leading companies are organising a fundraising show so their four-year-old nephew who has cerebral palsy can seek treatment in the US.

Bavarian State Ballet principal dancers Laurretta Summerscales and her husband Yonah Acosta, who is the nephew of world-renowned Carlos Acosta, are trying to raise £30,000 for Dexter Summerscales-Heard.

Dexter, from Woking, suffers with epilepsy, is non verbal and is fully reliant on his wheelchair and family to assist his daily activities.

In February last year, Dexter was hospitalised as his immune system started to attack his brain when he had pneumonia. He was left in a coma and surgery was required to keep him alive. He battled through and was eventually discharged from hospital seven months later.

But at the Evelina London Children’s Hospital in March, a videofluoroscopy discovered he could no longer eat orally. Medical investigations revealed that his swallowing function was diverting food into his lungs, instead of his stomach — posing a critical threat of respiratory failure. Doctors have said he could even drown in his own saliva.

To help him swallow again, his family want him to travel to a specialist centre in the US to seek a treatment called VitalStim, designed to treat swallowing disorders through muscle re-education.

Currently, National Institute for Health and Care Excellence (Nice) guidelines allow this treatment for NHS adult patients but it has not yet been approved for use on children in the UK.

Ms Summerscales, who is originally from Surrey and moved to Germany after leaving her role as principal dancer with the English National Ballet last year, said: “When we eat as a family, we always want to go into another room so Dexter doesn’t have to see us and we can’t go to restaurants and do the things we used to enjoy.

“His eight-year-old sister is a young carer, she looks after Dexter and has spent half her life doing so, she tries to have her dinner upstairs and not in front of him, it’s very upsetting for her.

“And for Dexter, it’s been a big change in his personality. He’s very sociable and happy and enjoys Christmas and birthdays but has become depressed as a result of not being able to eat the things he used to.”

The two-hour show will include dancers from the Royal Ballet, English National Ballet, Company Wayne McGregor, Bavarian State Ballet and Birmingham Royal Ballet. Ms Summerscales and Mr Acosta will be among the performers.

The ballet evening is being held on November 10 at the New Victoria Theatre in Woking.

Tickets are available online at atgtickets.com/woking or call 08448717645.

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