Hi - good to see you back here again.

Today is my 63rd birthday, which is as good an excuse as any for a new post to my blog. I shall be celebrating doubly in style with my wife - not only will be getting on our glad rags to dine in style at our favourite local restaurant, it's also a milestone in my efforts to lose weight - see below.

However, before that, I promised I would tell you more about my second visit to the RNOH, so here goes.

Before getting into my first meeting with Deirdre Brooking, and my MRI, I wanted to just reflect on something that really struck me on my second visit to the RNOH site.

My first visit was in early January, so it was almost dark when I arrived, I was dropped off right at out-patients by the hospital bus, and I was short on time, so I guess I didn't really have time to take in my surroundings.

On this my second visit, I drove myself, arriving both in daylight and with time to spare, although I then had the significant task of finding a parking space, so did a bit of a tour of the RNOH site.

As you either already know, or will soon find out, RNOH has not just a national but an international reputation for clinical and research excellence, and is a world-renowned orthopaedic centre. Yet the physical infrastructure of the facility is almost antediluvian - wards housed in what are, for all intents and purposes, second world war Nissen huts, crumbling exteriors, patients being wheeled along corridors open to the elements - the list goes on. It's a miracle frankly that the staff at RNOH are able to achieve what they do, and have earned such an august reputation, in spite of facilities which are clearly very far away from being fit-for-purpose. Imagine what they could do with up-to-date infrastructure and facilities! From what little I know this problem has long been recognised but it seems a solution has never been implemented. It doesn't take a rocket scientist to calculate that they must be spending a fortune just trying to muddle along with and patch up the existing facilities, and it would be a huge shame if such a centre of excellence were threatened for want of some investment.

Anyway, after that brief digression, let me tell you more about my second visit.

I first met with Deirdre Brooking, who is the Clinical Research Coordinator at RNOH, and who has been my main point of contact since my first visit to the hospital (though this was my first chance to meet her). If you want to put a face (and indeed a voice) to a name, then you could do no better than watching the excellent TARVA video in which Deirdre is one of the principle narrators - www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTzOS5dRhm4

Deirdre took me through the next steps on the route to surgery, and was very helpful in answering a number of questions that I had, although I felt I had already found a lot of information, especially on the TARVA website and through the RNOH factsheet on the subject.

The other main purpose of my second visit was an MRI of my dodgy ankle, so Deirdre took me to the reception for the Imaging Department, and I was then seen very quickly. The MRI scan took about 20 minutes, and fortunately for me I went in "feet first" (I've previously had a spine scan - to confirm a diagnosis (see first post) of ankylosing spondylitis - which involved going in "head first"; I'm not particularly claustrophobic, but after nearly 90 minutes I was mighty glad to emerge!!).

After the end of the MRI I was free to leave, and blessed my decision to drive on this occasion (I had to be in the London area anyway), since my departure coincided, just like the first visit, with the changeover time for the hospital bus.

In the next post, I'll start to tell you some of the things I've been doing in preparation for my surgery in early July, but I'll round off this post by talking a little about what is, perhaps (other than having an excellent surgical team), the most significant thing I can do to make sure I give myself the best chance of benefiting from the operation, which is losing weight.

As I mentioned in my first post, I am significantly overweight - two months ago, after an indulgent holiday in Dubai, I tipped the scales at 107 kg., which is the heaviest I've been for about ten years. I resolved that I must shed a significant amount of weight before my procedure, not least to reduce the current stress on my ankle, but also particularly the load on either the replacement or fusion resulting from the operation.

Co-incidentally, a very good friend had tried Jason Vale's Super-Juice-Me 28 day all juice diet, with great success in terms of both weight loss and overall well-being. Although it is only fair to point out that medical opinion IS divided on both the merits and the efficacy of a juice-only diet, I felt I needed something fairly radical to help start to shift a significant amount of weight.

So, courtesy of Amazon, I purchased both a juicer and a blender, and then caused great curiosity at the checkout of our local supermarket when I stocked up with enough fruit & veg apparently for a small army (e.g. 63 Golden Delicious)!

The results have been nothing short of dramatic. As well as feeling significantly better overall, in the first 28 days (I finished yesterday), I have shed 13 kg./28 lbs., bringing me down to a still hefty 94 kg. but with the added bonus of reclassifying me from "obese" to just "overweight' - result!

I am taking a break of two weeks of just moderate eating (still including some juices), and will then go back for a further 28-day session - my aim then will be to get down close to 80 kg. by mid-June in readiness for my operation, though I suspect the next 28 lbs. is going to be more difficult than the first!

So, just over two months to go to surgery, and two weeks to "randomisation" - next post will review some of the other preparations I've been making for this major event.

Enjoy the long holiday weekend, and please give me some feedback if you've read this blog and are finding it helpful.