Billings Clinic Foundation Piggy Bank Fund

1:53 PM, Mar 18, 2024
1:53 PM, Mar 18, 2024

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“I did all the right things, no caffeine, no cold cuts, no unpasteurized cheese, no hot tubs”, said Tylee McMaster.

Like so many mothers, Tylee remembers spending much of her pregnancy worrying about the well-being of her children. For her and her husband, Ben, learning that they were expecting twins was a surprise during their first ultrasound. Tylee, who was head coach of a high school softball team at the time, often found herself pacing along the third base line, turning her belly away from each swing, worried a foul ball would come for her stomach. In the car, she focused on her seatbelt placement, fixated on the potential effects of a sudden wreck.

On August 7, 2023, at 37 weeks and 3 days, the couple arrived at the Billings Clinic Family Birth Center for Tylee’s scheduled c-section. Relief came over them when their two beautiful children, Baker and Briar were born. It seemed everything was perfect, and after a few days of recovering, the family went home. But just one day later, at the newborns’ scheduled first checkup, Baker was flagged with an elevated immunoreactive trypsinogen (IRT) level. It was so high that medical staff thought it might be a mistake. IRT is a protein-based pancreatic proenzyme that has an important role in protein digestion in humans. Its levels are measured as part of a screening that can detect cystic fibrosis in newborns. Baker mostly slept through further testing, which involved multiple needle sticks, and earned his nickname, Bulletproof Baker.

The family soon received the difficult news that 8-day old Baker had Cystic Fibrosis. A disease with no current cure, CF is a genetic disease that causes mucus build- up in the lungs and affects other organs, including the pancreas. Tylee said it was toughest in the moments and days following the diagnosis. The initial uncertainty left her feeling overwhelmed, but the support and positive energy from family, friends and Billings Clinic staff helped her through.

As a special education teacher, Tylee understands the importance of clear and empathetic language when communicating with families in difficult times and on delicate subjects. She was able to recognize and appreciate those qualities in Billings Clinic staff from the very beginning.

When the McMaster family jumped from a family of 2, to a family of 4, the surge of unexpected medical needs and expenses left Tylee and Ben overwhelmed. On an unpaid maternity leave, Tylee remembers juggling finances even before the new medical expenses began to arrive. That’s when the staff at Billings Clinic stepped up. Tylee extends endless thanks to board certified pediatric pulmonologist, Jerimiah Lysinger, MD, and his staff for all the support and love they provided amid tremendous uncertainty, and further thanks social services care manager, Bobbie Thurston, for her efforts in connecting her family with the Billings Clinic Foundation Piggy Bank Fund, which provided financial support for the family during their time of need.

“Pediatric patients and families with complex medical and social needs depend on Billings Clinic pediatricians and pediatric specialists working together to address concerns and improve their health. Through community support of the Piggy Bank Fund, families can focus on their kids’ care when they need it the most.” said Patricia Notario, MD, pediatrician at Billings Clinic and Piggy Bank Physician Champion.

Funds given to the Billings Clinic Foundation by generous supporters and donors helped Tylee’s family to pay their mortgage at a very difficult time. The family has also received Walmart gift cards, funds for groceries, formula and other necessary supplies.

Baker is now five months old, and there is lots of hope. Medical experts believe a cure for CF is possible in the next ten years. The McMaster family continues to request prayers, specifically for the healing of Baker’s pancreas.

Through the Billings Clinic Foundation’s “Piggy Bank” Pediatric Assistance Fund everyone can help kids like Baker. Donations go directly toward helping families struggling with the non-medical costs associated with the diagnosis of life-altering pediatric illness and disease.

Billings Clinic Foundation has a goal of raising $50,000 for the Piggy Bank Fund by the end of March, and every cent counts. Through the month of March, for every $50 donation using a debit card associated with a Montana address, the donor’s name will be entered in drawing for a 7-night stay in Mexico. For more information or to donate, go to

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