This story is tough to read, but the implications in your own life as a father are very real.

Dan Burdick is a father from St. Cloud, Minnesota, and former employee of four years at T.O. Plastics. The story starts a couple of years ago, when Dan’s son, Tyler, was born.

Tyler developed infant leukemia at four months old, and received chemotherapy. The leukemia had gone into remission, but then returned when Tyler was just two years old. In September, Tyler received a bone marrow transplant. And now, with failing liver and kidneys, no one knows how long Tyler will be alive.

Dan and his wife, Stephanie, have been at Amplatz Children’s Hospital in Minneapolis since this ordeal started. And that, to T.O. Plastics, is a problem.

Dan had used all of his available Paid Time Off at T.O. Plastics, as well as his Family Medical Leave Benefit. And according to the law, T.O. Plastics can extend unpaid leave to 12 weeks – while protecting Dan’s job. To make matters worse, the Burdicks have used all of their savings and don’t even know if they have the money for a possible funeral for their son.

So what went wrong?

Dan didn’t know that he had used up his time, and (according to the former employer) failed to keep in contact with T.O. Plastics. And in doing that, he forfeited his benefits. T.O. Plastics had to hire someone else for the job in Dan’s absence – during what Dan admits is a busy time of the year at the company.

Look – this is a fatherhood issue for everyone reading this site. This is bigger than Dan Burdick – because we all have families and jobs. And if you’re a proud head of household, slaving away at whatever job you’ve got, you know that family schedules and work schedules often clash. Life happens, and you can’t just tell your wife or child to stop having an emergency. And you certainly can’t just wave-off cancer.

So as this head of household – you need to be prepared. Know the laws, know your rights, and make sure that in the face of adversity, you take time to remember the big picture. The big picture that Dan unfortunately didn’t see – was that even if it was of utmost importance for him to be with his wife and son every day, it was also of almost equal importance for him to make sure he had a job to return to. Now, in addition to money trouble and a very sick son, Dan has to worry about finding more work when this chapter of the story is over.

Good luck to the Burdicks, and if you’d like to read more and donate to their family, you can do so here.

If you’d like to read more about the Family and Medical Leave Act, please click here.