On August 18, 1984, Courtney Gilmour was born in Sarnia, Ontario. Her right arm ends just above the wrist, and her left arm ends immediately below the elbow. She has one fully functional leg; her other leg ends mid femur. Courtney’s parents recall her personal independence and mental and physical perseverance from an early age.

Sarnia, a town of approximately 70,000 people, is also known as Chemical Valley because of the 60+ facilities that comprise 40 per cent of Canada's petrochemical industry. The amount of pollution generated throughout the region has given Sarnia the distinction of "the dirtiest place in Canada." During her nine-month pregnancy, Courtney's mother drove daily through Chemical Valley.

Shortly after Courtney's birth, three geneticists visited her mother to determine if the birth defects were genetically linked. After analyzing the family's blood, hair, etc., each geneticist independently concluded consistent exposure to the pollutants during pregnancy led to Courtney's birth defects. Courtney's parents accepted the findings and raised their child to develop into a normal, healthy girl.