In 2013 Amit Patel was working as a trauma doctor when a rare condition caused him to lose his sight within thirty-six hours. Totally dependent on others and terrified of stepping outside with a white cane after a horrifying assault, he hit rock bottom. He refused to leave home on his own for three months. With the support of his wife Seema, Amit slowly began to adapt to his new situation, but how could life ever be the way it was? The answer would come in the form of his guide dog, a white Labrador, Kika.
At the start, Kika’s stubbornness almost put her guide dog training in jeopardy. Meanwhile, Amit had reservations about trusting a dog with his safety. But in September 2015 Amit and Kika were paired and started on their journey, learning to trust each other before taking to the streets of London and beyond. The partnership not only gives Amit a renewed lease of life but a new best friend.
After a video of an irate commuter rudely asking Amit to step aside on an escalator goes viral, he sets out with Kika by his side to spread a message of positivity and inclusivity, showing that nothing will hold them back. From the challenges of travelling when blind to becoming a parent for the first time, Kika & Me is the moving, heart-warming and inspirational story of Amit’s sight-loss journey and how one guide dog changed his life.
Dr Amit Patel is a disability rights campaigner, fundraiser, motivational speaker and independent diversity and accessibility consultant. Amit studied medicine at Cambridge University and qualified as a trauma doctor, specialising in emergency medicine and major incidents. During med school Amit was diagnosed with keratoconus, which is usually easily treated with a corneal transplant. However, Amit was one of the rare individuals for whom the transplants rejected and he was registered severely sight impaired (blind) just one year after getting married in 2013. After coming to terms with his own sight loss, Amit set out to help others who were new to sight loss, through volunteering with the Royal National Institute for the Blind (RNIB) and Guide Dogs for the Blind. Amit is married to Seema and together they have a two children. Kika & Me is his first book.
Amit speaking to Asian Voice for the Spotlight column in 2019 said how Kika has become his best friend. He said, “I call her the ‘blonde leading the blind’ and she has her own passport! She’s filled the void when I lost my sight. Funnily enough, my wife’s mother’s maiden name is Kika and Kika and I were one of the fastest matches made between guide dog and person so it seemed destined! Additionally, Kika was completely fair when we got her and now she’s sporting brown hairs – I always joke that she’s integrating!”
The community leader also personally assists the newly blind, providing advice and positivity and accompanying them through potentially daunting journeys: “I’ll go right to someone’s door to help them and there are some brilliant charities who will do the same such as the RNIB.”
Significantly, refusing to shy away from the demands of visual impairment has been a conscious aspect of Amit’s expressive campaign. He told AV columnist Sunetra, “People tend to censor the bad parts of life, for example even with parenting, but you should confront them to thrive. I reiterate: it’s not easy to live with a disability but you carry on despite it. Sometimes I’ll feel pressure to stay smiling because if I don’t it seems to upset others. But as I say, I’m an ordinary person who has their ups and downs – in fact, more so than some. To truly represent, I must be as vulnerable as I am strong.”
Kika & Me by Amit Patel has been published on 20 February 2020 (Pan Macmillan, £16.99 hardback).
To read Amit's full interview with Asian Voice in 2019, see: https://www.asian-voice.com/Lifestyle/Spotlight/Dr-Amit-Patel-the-Enlightened-Leading-the-Blind.