Human Interest

Gore-Tex founder leaves legacy of helping to heal the hearts of infants with Down Syndrome

Down syndrome

Robert Gore, the founder of Gore-Tex, died at age 85 last month, and pro-lifers have good reason to take note of his incredible professional accomplishments. As reported by Aleteia, while still a young man, Gore invented Gore-Tex, the lightweight, breathable, waterproof material most commonly known for its use in all-weather outerwear, footwear, gloves, accessories and more. But the product’s many uses — “from guitar strings and vacuum bags to space suits” — didn’t stop there.

Gore-Tex eventually branched into the medical field and the material is now used in bandages for burn victims, as well as in patches for heart surgeries. According to Aleteia, during a 1996 company press conference, Gore said, “We plan to leave a legacy to society and to future generations [including] infants with surgically reconstructed hearts that live because of our medical products.”

Infants and young children with Down syndrome are one population of individuals in need of patches for heart surgery. Over 25 years ago, a research article published in the Annals of Thoracic Surgery noted that the Gore-Tex patch showed tremendous promise as a mainstay treatment for the particular type of heart problems (atrioventricular septal defects, or atrioventricular canal defects) that infants with Down Syndrome tend to have.

READ: Heart surgery could extend lives of these babies from weeks to years

According to the Mayo Clinic, atrioventricular septal defects are “a combination of heart problems resulting in a defect in the center of the heart” that occur “when there’s a hole between the heart’s chambers and problems with the valves that regulate blood flow in the heart.” The long-term treatment for this heart condition is usually surgery.

According to the Mayo website, “The procedure involves closing the hole in the wall (septum) between the heart chambers with one or two patches. The patches stay in the heart permanently, becoming part of the septum as the heart’s lining grows over them.”

Over the last 35 years, some 600,000 G0re-Tex patches have been deployed in heart surgeries, many of them in infants and young children with Down Syndrome. Successful heart surgeries are one of several reasons that have dramatically increased the life expectancy for individuals with Down Syndrome.

In his death, Robert Gore leaves a legacy as more than an inventor. He helped to save lives, and there is no greater legacy than this. May he rest in peace.

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