A FILM producer who has battled with devastating illness for much of his life is launching a campaign to raise £100,000 for the British Heart Foundation as he prepares for his sixth heart operation.

Jonathan Stretton-Downes with his twin brother David and the British Heart Foundation are launching Six Times Open at the National Gallery in London on Friday, November 19.

The brothers, from Bedale, say they are determined to ensure something positive comes from the latest challenge.

Jonathan was born with Aortic Stenosis which restricts blood to the heart and meant he had to have his first heart operation when he was just six days old. Further operations were carried out when he was nine, with three when he was 16.

Now aged 28, he is facing open heart surgery for the sixth time at the Freeman Hospital in Newcastle. The twins decided they wanted to be positive about the experience and to use it to help raise money, make people more aware of the issues and reach out to other patients and their families.

In partnership with the British Heart Foundation they are launching the campaign with the special event on Friday, and further fund raising planned throughout next year.

They are also making a documentary film about Jonathan’s journey, with a book planned entitled ‘How to survive heart surgery’.

Jonathan Stretton-Downes said: “I have spent a lot of time in hospital over the past three years with infections and other problems and am now due to have the next operation before the end of the year. David and I have always been extremely close and we wanted something positive to come out of this, so the fundraising and the documentary are a way of letting people know that you can have a life and a fulfilling life.

“This really is something we are doing together. We have had a huge amount of support and have some wonderful partners onboard. It is vitally important to raise this money for the British Heart Foundation, so anyone who can help or who wants to get involved, we would really like to hear from you.”

The twins both attended Bedale High School and Northallerton College. Their parents live in Crakehall, Jonathan now lives in Newcastle and David in London, but keep in constant touch and visited the High School last week to discuss potential events next year.

David Stretton Downes added: “The campaign will follow the preparations, mentally and physically for the roller-coaster of a sixth heart operation, through the surgery itself and along the harsh road to recovery.

“The aim is twofold; to make people more aware of the British Heart Foundation and raise vital funds for the work it does. We we also want to inspire others in similar situations to show that, as with Jonathan, events such as this don’t have to define who you are or dictate your life.”

Go to www.sixtimesopen.com for tickets and information about the campaign, Jonathan’s sixth operation and future events.