Despite battling the debilitating effects of chronic Lyme disease for four years, a Springettsbury Township teen was becoming his old self again before he died Saturday from injuries sustained in a Thursday fall from his skateboard.
“He had hope for the future,” said Jim Leavens, father of Robert “Rob” Leavens. “He was finally over the hump.”
Rob Leavens was 18.
Jim Leavens and his wife, Cheerlee, donated their son’s organs because, they said, it’s something he would have approved of. His heart, liver, kidneys and pancreas were all donated, Jim Leavens said.
“There’s something good that could come out of it,” he said.
What happened: Rob Leavens was holding onto the back of a Ford Escape driven by Payton Royer, 18, of Springettsbury Township, that was heading west in the 2100 block of East Philadelphia Street when he fell at its intersection with North Harlan Street about 8:30 p.m. Thursday, according to township police.
He was taken to York Hospital for treatment, but died Saturday as a result of the injuries.
Sgt. Tony Beam said police are still investigating the details of the crash, to which there were witnesses, “not spectators.”
Beam would not say how fast the vehicle was moving or where and why Leavens was holding onto the vehicle.
He said Royer, who was not injured, was not issued any citations. The York County District Attorney’s Office will be consulted to determine whether charges will be filed when the investigation is complete, Beam said.
Beam declined to elaborate on the nature of Leavens’ injuries, saying only that the teen fell.
Compassion: Jim Leavens said it appeared the incident happened so quickly that his son wasn’t able to put his hands out to alleviate the impact, so his head bore the brunt. He was not wearing a helmet.
Jim Leavens called what his son and Royer did a “knucklehead thing” but he and his family do not harbor ill will for Royer, who has been friends with Rob Leavens for years.
Royer went to the Leavens’ home after the incident seeking forgiveness, Jim Leavens said.
“Payton came to us broken,” he said. “We told him, ‘We forgive you but you have to forgive yourself. There’s already one life lost. You can’t damage yourself.'”
Jim Leavens said he doesn’t blame his son or Royer for what happened but rather blames Lyme disease, which affected Rob Leavens’ motor skills, balance and reasoning.
Lyme disease: For years, the effects of Lyme disease wouldn’t allow Rob Leavens to skateboard because it was too painful.
Rob Leavens contracted Lyme disease at age 14 but was misdiagnosed for two years after testing negative for the disease until the family sought a specialist in Maryland who correctly diagnosed him, Jim Leavens said.
“He struggled mightily from the symptoms of Lyme disease,” Jim Leavens said. “It affected his emotions and cognitive ability.”
Rob Leavens suffered intense headaches, was hospitalized twice and would become frustrated that he couldn’t remember to complete tasks or be a carefree teenager, Jim Leavens said.
The disease had such ill effects that Rob Leavens missed an extensive amount of school, and he finally withdrew from York Suburban School District.
However, with proper treatment, the younger Leavens was becoming his old thoughtful and compassionate self and was looking to the future as he began to talk about getting his GED and going to college, Jim Leavens said.
On the day Rob Leavens died, he did two things he hadn’t done in a long time. He went to a mall with a friend and bought vitamin supplements to counteract Lyme disease and a long-sleeved button shirt, a deviation from the T-shirts he normally wore.
The second thing he did was go skateboarding, Jim Leavens said.
“This was the first time he felt up to skateboarding in a very long time,” he said.
Anyone with information on the incident is asked to contact police at 757-3525.
In addition to his parents, Rob Leavens is survived by his sister, Elizabeth.
Funeral services are scheduled for 3 p.m. Thursday at Kuhner Associates Funeral Directors, 863 S. George St., York. Visitation will be 1 to 3 p.m.
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