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Stateline woman overcomes Ollier’s Disease to become NICU nurse

ROCKFORD (WREX) — As you flip through the childhood pictures of Amber Cornford, there is one undeniable trend.

Amber loves babies.

"I have loved babies from a very, very young age," Cornford said>

"At 3 or 4 years old, I knew I wanted to be a baby nurse and it never wavered."

While the desire to work with babies was evident from the start, there was another discovery made that changed Amber's life forever.

An observation made by Amber's grandfather when she was 11 months old.

"My grandpa noticed one of my legs was shorter," Cornford said

"My parents took me to the children's hospital and it took a while because they had to grab a textbook and look it up because doctors don't see it very often."

Amber was diagnosed with Ollier's disease.

It's a rare skeletal disorder which affects limb growth due to tumors that form on the joints and growth plates.

When doctors discovered Amber's condition, they didn't provide a bright outlook.

"Doctors told my parents at that time that I'd likely be severely deformed and wheelchair bound by the age of 9," Cornford said.

Fast forward to Amber at three years old when the first of many corrective surgeries began to lengthen her limbs.

From then on through her teenage years, Amber went through close to 50 operations to get to where she is today.

While not an easy journey, she did prove those doctors wrong as she walks through life on both feet.

A path spent predominantly at Javon Bea Hospital as a NICU nurse.

Amber loves having her dream job after all of her adversity, but what resonates even more is how she can use her experiences to support the families coming through her unit.

"The moments that have been really special for me is connecting with a parent and being able to use my story to give them hope for their child," Cornford said.

"Just to give them a little bit of that hope and to see that I was told something very different about what my future was going to be and now I'm the nurse that's taking care of their child."

It's a constant reflective moment for Amber thinking of everything not just she, but her family went through.

As a child, she wasn't the one in charge of her health so it was up to her parent to make the tough medical decisions for her.

Something Amber now greatly appreciates and empathizes with.

"They chose a harder road but it gave me more freedom and the ability to walk and I'm grateful of their choice," Cornford said.

"They were choosing to have to watch their child be in pain which I would imagine is one of the hardest things that you can do as a parent."

Nothing has been easy throughout Amber's journey, but that's what crafted her into the person she is today.

Taking the projection of being wheelchair bound before she turned 10, to a fully functioning nurse working with the patients she's always wanted.

"If you look at my scans you might think this person is going to have a hard time working 12 and half hour shifts. It's true, it's not easy but I'm doing it and I love it and I'm definitely living out my dream job," Cornford said.

"If you base everything on scans, you don't know what someone is actually capable of."

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Evan Leake

Evan Leake anchors for 13 News Today and 13 News at Noon. Evan grew up in Darien, Illinois, a south-west suburb of Chicago. He came to WREX in 2017 and worked his way to the anchor desk in May of 2019. He coordinates both the Teacher of the Week and Inspiring 815 series for 13 News. You can connect with Evan at or Evan Leake on Facebook.

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