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A change of plans: Stroke affects family routine, son’s career path


John Licata had a decade of experience in TV/film, print and marketing when he made an abrupt career change.

John Licata

John Licata

It was Father‘s Day weekend of 2013. His father, John Licata Sr., suffered a stroke that left him with partial paralysis, some neurological deficits and blindness, which, fortunately, went away five days later.

Those five days, the lengthy recovery process and the caregiving role that was thrust upon John Licata‘s mother, Sue, helped make him aware of the rewarding role of physical therapist.

As he saw physical therapists interacting with patients, Licata says, “I could see myself energized to do this, to contribute to somebody‘s life.”

He had no science background, so Licata enrolled at Onondaga Community College. In two years, he completed the required courses, applied to and was accepted into Upstate‘s Doctor of Physical Therapy program. He‘s on track to graduate this spring.

Licata and his sister help their mother care for their father. As hard as it is on all of them, they realize the benefit of having each other for support.

Licata, who loves to write, is working on a book as part of an independent study course in his physical therapy program. It‘s called “The Steaks Are Marinating: Reflecting on Life After Dad‘s Stroke.”

“My dad was an awesome cook,” he recalls. “That Father‘s Day weekend, he had marinated steaks. The plan was to play golf in the morning and cook out in the afternoon.”

The stroke changed those plans and others.

From his hospital room, as his speech returned, Licata‘s father told his family: “The steaks are still marinating.”

Later, when Licata and his mother and sister finally went home, they cooked those steaks. As they ate, they realized it was likely the last meal they would enjoy that had been prepared by their patriarch.

“It was a symbolic moment of a family trying to gain acceptance,” says Licata. “It was the transition from what we were, to what we were becoming.”

Licata is not certain in which area of physical therapy he will specialize.

But he knows he will strive to connect with his patients and contribute to their lives.

Upstate Health magazine spring 2018 coverThis article appears in the spring 2018 issue of Upstate Health magazine.