Local Dentist Repays Navy Veteran for His Service

Local Dentist Repays Navy Veteran for His Service

By Cheryl Conway

 

Leonard Krauss of Randolph has a lot to smile about, and food to enjoy, thanks to services provided by Dr. Ira Goldberg of Morris County Dental Associates in Succasunna.

About a year ago, the 90-year old navy veteran sought a free consultation from Goldberg for much needed dental work and in March 2018 Krauss’s treatment was complete. From the time he set foot into the dental office, a connection was established between a patient and a doctor, and empathy for a man deserving of a better quality of life and a healthier mouth.  

“He came to us from an ad we ran about dental implants,” explains Goldberg. “He started by saying he didn’t think he could afford them, but he wanted to look into them because he had to do something.   As he was telling us this, his upper denture was literally falling down and his lower denture was sliding all over.”

Without any dental coverage, according the work that needed to be done, Goldberg offered to provide all services at no cost to Krauss.

“I’m not a clinic, I’m not the VA,” Goldberg maintains, but this case was one where he knew he had do something to help this man.

“He desperately needed the care, deserved it, but simply couldn’t afford it,” says Goldberg, who has helped out other patients before when it came to finances but “on a much smaller scale, and not on a regular basis. The VA couldn’t help him, he couldn’t eat properly, and he was very close to having nerves exposed that could cause him a great deal of pain.  He has given his service to our country and he’s a kind and thoughtful person.  He touched each and every person in our office, too.”

With his own practice in Roxbury for the past seven years and 16 years at his previous practice, Goldberg says “what separates us from other offices is what our mantra states:  “Experience, compassion and quality.”  We take our time with patients, listen to their concerns and treat them with respect.  We are well known for comprehensive and thorough treatment, too.”  

Compassion was clearly in the picture when helping Krauss.

We gave him a new lease on life,” says Goldberg. “He will be healthier. He is now able to eat better, talk better, and smile better.  His teeth don’t slide around his mouth, or fall out.  He has a goal to see his granddaughter graduate from West Point, and hopefully we put him closer to reaching that goal.”

Meet Leonard Krauss

Born on June 26, 1928, in Kearney, Krauss grew up in Bergen County’s North Arlington where he played football for his high school team. During one of the games he played in the freezing rain and wound up in the hospital for two weeks after coming down with a 104 degree fever, he recalls.

He played end, which it was called back then, and was required to play entire games, and with the equipment at that time, there was no staying dry.

“The equipment that we had back then did not have rubber padding,” he says, but instead “had cotton padding. When you play football in inclement weather those paddings got wet.”

Unlike football today, in which one team plays offense and another set of players play defense, “When we played we had one team. You played offense and defense and you played the whole game in freezing rain and your padding got wet. You got a chill, ended up in the hospital.”

To treat his infection, Krauss was given one of the first anti-infection medications made which dates back to the 1940’s.

“It’s a long time ago,” he says, “this particular medicine was not top notch. When I got back to school my hair started to fall out and I started to get cavities that I never had before.”

While his parents no longer allowed him to play football, he was allowed to make his own decisions once he became an adult, like join the Navy.

“In the beginning I had to try hard to convince them to play football,” he says. “When you are young you don’t look at experiences but your parents do, so they said ‘no more football.’”

They would not let him enlist in the service at the onset of WWII.

“When WWII broke out I was in the eighth grade, junior high,” he explains. “The years passed, all of a sudden I was 17 and war was still on. Some of my classmates went into the service. I went to my dad and said ‘you need to sign permission.’ I said ‘I need your permission to go into the service.’ He said ‘no I’m not signing for you to go into the service.’”

While his father, Ike, served in the army during WWI, “he didn’t want me to sign up for anything; ‘when you are 18 that’s up to you,’ which is what I did. I was 19 or 20 years old, I was out on my own so he didn’t give me a hard time. He said I was very proud of you.”

From 1948 to 1952 Krauss served in the Navy as an air traffic controller.

“The Korean War hadn’t started yet,” he says, so there was no involvement in military services at the time “but they were sending military assistance to the Korean Army. I wanted to make sure I served in the navy; l enlisted.

During the Korean War Krauss served on a ship assigned to the seventh fleet and operated in the Mediterranean area, he explains.

“It was a show of force,” he says. “The higher reps and military wanted to make sure we were recognized all over the world, Mediterranean included.”

While all was going according to plan, Krauss’ teeth were not holding up while on the ship, a condition he blames on the infection he got while in high school.

When he enlisted in the navy he says his “teeth were acceptable,” but once in the Navy his teeth were not.

“The dentist said ‘what we could do is give you a denture.’ The dentist said ‘it’s a matter of time, the teeth are not going to last much longer.’ I would put a Band-Aid on them,” says Krauss who questions the care he received back then.

“The Navy dentists are not the greatest in the world,” says Krauss. “They were looking for the easiest way to take care of the situation.”

Dentures were put in but they did not last. “It lasted some time before I had to have it replaced,” says Krauss. “If you would’ve gone today, he probably would’ve given you a partial denture. At the time in the Navy, easiest way out and cheapest way, you are at their mercy because you belong to them.”

After four years, Krauss was honorably discharged in 1952.

“There were things I wanted to do like get married and start school,” says Krauss.

“I’m no hero, I’m a vet,” says Krauss. “I did my job, I’m very proud of what I did. I served on a warship but I’m not a hero. I’m just like any other vet. I never proposed to be other than a sailor doing my job.”

He married Mildred Donahue in July 1953, started school at Seton Hall University and had two twin boys Keith and Kevin.

“We were busy,” he says. They went onto have three more kids, a daughter Maribeth, and two more sons William ‘Liam’ and Eric. He worked in industrial sales for 30 years and just retired six years ago from his part-time job as a distributor of school busses.

“I was one of the drivers,” he says. Mildred died 18 years ago and Krauss lived in Plainfield for ten years before moving into his son Eric’s house, in Randolph.

His seven grandkids have kept him going. His granddaughter, Kelsea in Randolph, is currently in her final year at West Point with plans to serve as a 2nd lieutenant in the Army.

Goldberg Gives Krauss A Renewed Reason To Smile

Who would have thought a piece of mail would establish a friendship between a Korean War Vet and a dentist?” Goldberg’s office describes in a write up about Krauss.

As a Veteran, Krauss received health care through the Veteran’s Administration in East Orange and Basking Ridge, but when he turned to them for dental care he was denied coverage.

“I needed some dental work,” explain Krauss, who soon came to learn that “If you don’t have 100 percent disability, you don’t get coverage. I had 75 percent disability.”

While he appreciates all of the services the VA provides to veterans- like paying for his medication, his knee replacement and heart valve replacement- Krauss questions why it does not provide dental care especially since “proper food and nutrition” is important to a person’s overall health.

“If you can’t consume properly, you can’t keep your health,” says Krauss. “I can’t understand for the life of me that they can’t replace dental work. Before I went to Dr. Goldberg, I went to the VA dentist department and they said you have to be 100 percent disabled. I just wanted them to check my mouth to see what I can get done. They said ‘no, you have to be 100 percent disabled.’”

He says “I had some dentures, been quite a while since they were replaced. They did not fit properly so it restricted my foods. My menu had to be on the soft side; difficulties in chewing because of the loose dentures.

“Unfortunately the older you get, the more receding you get in the structure of your mouth,”

He says. When Krauss received an advertisement offering a free consultation for dental implants at Goldberg’s office, he decided to make an appointment.

“I knew I needed something done,” stated Krauss, “because the Veteran’s Administration was at a limit as to what they could do for me.  I’ve had full dentures for the upper and lower jaws for years, and they just didn’t fit right. My digestive tract was affected, I couldn’t eat many foods, and I was simply unhappy.”

“Unhappy” is not what Dr. Goldberg and his staff ever saw from this gentleman,” Goldberg’s office tells. “Mr. Krauss has never been caught once by me or my staff in an unhappy state or mood,” Goldberg states. “He’s always smiling, cracking jokes, telling us military stories in the most positive manner, and living life to its fullest.”

Extensive Care Needed  

“Mr. Krauss had a very serious dental problem,” explains Goldberg.  “He presented to me with advanced bone loss in both the upper and lower jaws.  We see this all the time, so we know how to handle it. The Veteran’s Administration, as well as most dentists, are not equipped to deal with this kind of crippling situation.  We are.”

A 3-D scan taken in Dr. Goldberg’s office showed nerves that were just about to be exposed, he explains.

“When this occurs, a patient has constant pain,” states Goldberg. “We were dead-set in avoiding Mr. Krauss from living with this problem.  In our experience, dental implants are the most predictable method to restore his oral health, which in turn would also improve his systemic health.”

Surprised that the x-rays and “extensive” consultation was free of charge, Krauss wanted to review what the financial burden would be on him if any work were to be done.

“He went over possibilities of what we can do,” explains Krauss, “to see if I was in agreement with that.” He says prior to that he discussed few things like how he was a  Veteran and the ship he was on and came to realize how Goldberg was on the same ship when he was in San Diego.

“I said ‘that ship was our sister ship,’” says Krauss.

Goldberg office explains, “We can always ballpark a fee for a patient, but its difficult to get a real accurate number until we go through some preliminary, diagnostic steps.  I told Mr. Krauss to let us do this over five appointments, and there wouldn’t be any fee to him until we finished them and he accepted treatment. This sounded reasonable to him, so we proceeded.”

It was during these appointments that the relationship bloomed and Goldberg and his staff looked forward to spending time with Krauss, even extending appointments to enjoy each other’s company, they say.  

When they learned how Krauss “had very little financial backing for the dental care” and “what he has done for our country,” they made their decision.

“What this man has done for our country is outstanding, and should be applauded,” states Goldberg. “He is also a kind and tremendous human being,” while his staff fully agreed.  “We decided to take care of his dental needs pro-bono.”

Krauss’ reaction: “I looked at him and said ‘You can’t do that doc; you can do it for a reduced rate.’”

Krauss says Goldberg told him how he wanted “to give something back to my profession” and that ‘I was honored to do some work for you to get your mouth squared away.’ He said ‘it’s going to be a privilege.’”

With this offer, Goldberg had asked Krauss to participate in a TV promotion to feature his story, so he agreed.

The plan was to place four implants into the lower jaw and attach non-removable teeth to those implants, Goldberg explains. For the upper jaw, a brand new denture was fabricated.

The procedure was done in a manner called, “guided surgery,” a guide is fabricated from 3-D technology using specialized software in order to place implants into precise locations with minimal surgery.

“I decided to use a guided technique for Mr. Krauss due to some of his medical conditions and medications,” Goldberg explains. “He suffers from atrial fibrillation, and therefore he is on blood thinners.  I wanted to minimize the amount of bleeding, and avoiding certain types of Novocain that could aggravate the A-fib. People oftentimes think age is a factor, but it really isn’t. It’s the health of the patient.”

The entire experience is one that Krauss will always cherish.

“The staff in his office are really terrific people,” says Krauss. “I really appreciate Dr. Goldberg and the staff and what they helped me with. I still owe a lot to Dr. Goldberg. He’s really very nice, great personality, very helpful. Fortunately I got a hold of a dentist who is something else. He did a nice job for me.”

Since his treatment was completed in March, “his world has been turned around by the procedure,” says Goldberg. “He’s now able to eat any foods he wants, and his smile is second-to-none.”

Adds Krauss, “I don’t have to restrict my food to hamburger, meatballs or chicken basically. I can eat a steak now and lamb chops. He changed my menu and he also changed my smile. ”

Although work is completed, continued maintenance and monitoring is required, he says.

Krauss was looking forward to his Sept.19 appointment “to make sure everything is good…and then we are going to lunch.”

For and inside view of the care and compassion Krauss received, check out the video on Goldberg’s website MorrisCountyDentist.com, YouTube and Facebook.

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