Health problems force Eagle’s family’s move to Florida |

Health problems force Eagle’s family’s move to Florida

Kathy Heicher
Eagle Correspondent
Vail, CO Colorado
Dominique Taylor/Eagle Valley EnterpriseLisa Kosak, right, stays on oxygen because of rare genetic lung disease she was recently diagnosed with. Kosak and her sons Paul, 14, center, and R.J., 17, are moving to Florida where she can breath more easily.

EAGLE, Colorado ” Lisa Kosak loves this community, which she and her family have called home for the past dozen years.

Because of that, when she first became sick, she was reluctant to let the word get out.

“I thought I would get 1,000 casseroles on my front porch,” she says, with her characteristic laugh.

But sometimes life’s circumstances throw a curve. Health problems are forcing Kosak and her sons, R.J. and Paul, to pack up and move to a lower elevation. The family will close on a new home in Vero Beach, Fla., on Aug. 1.

“I love it here. I never figured I would move from this house,” says Lisa, gesturing toward the household items she is packing.

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There’s a painting of the Betty Ford Alpine Gardens, and a poster of Olympic skier Tommy Moe. All mementos of a lifestyle and community that her family loves.

Kosak’s health issues came on abruptly 16 months ago. She started having problems with her breathing; then she had problems with swelling appendages. The situation was mystifying for a person who had never needed medication of any sort.

Doctors scrambled for a diagnosis. The first thought was heart problems. When that didn’t prove to be the case, the next diagnosis was possible sleep apnea.

Then, by chance, a blood test revealed the true problem. Kosak suffers from Alpha-1 Anti-Trypsin Deficiency. It’s a hereditary disorder in which the liver fails to produce a necessary protein, which in turn causes lung disease. She found herself constantly gasping for breath.

“It’s almost like having asthma, all the time,” Kosak explains.

After months of treatment, Kosak knows a lot about the disease. She quotes some figures: One in 7,000 Americans suffer from the disease. For people of Norwegian descent (like Kosak), the occurrence is much more frequent ” about one in 700. High altitudes aggravate the symptoms.

Kosak is now constantly dependent on an oxygen machine. She receives intravenous medication for the disease every week. Doctors advised moving to a lower elevation. Some family trips to Florida confirmed that breathing is much easier for Kosak at sea level.

“I feel really good down there,” she says. “After two weeks, I feel awesome.”

Living at that altitude, she should eventually be able to live without the supplemental oxygen.

Kosak is the driving force behind the local Copy Plus business operations. Eight years ago, she saw a business niche in Eagle, and opened up her first store in the Chambers Avenue commercial park. The success of that operation prompted the opening of a branch store in Gypsum four years ago.

Kosak will continue on as owner of the local stores, handling the payroll and taxes from her new Florida home. The local stores will be managed by Erin Ivey. She hopes to eventually open up a Copy Plus store in Vero Beach.

Not surprising, for a woman who has been on the go since she moved to Eagle from Minneapolis. She’s been active in the chamber of commerce, including a stint on the board of directors. She was on a homeowners committee that helped develop the playground in the Terrace subdivision; and was a key volunteer in the construction of the community playground at Eagle Ranch.

Her sons, ages 17 and 14, have been involved in local sports programs including the Eagle Ranch golf team, spring lacrosse, little league baseball, wrestling, skiing and snowboarding.

“We’re so entwined in this community. That’s the hard part about leaving,” says Kosak.

Her sons are in step with the lifestyle move. R.J., a high school senior, says he’s ready to see more of the world beyond Eagle. Paul, a golf fanatic, is talking about playing that game every day.

Kosak promises there will be frequent trips back to Eagle.

She’s in the process of renting out her home in the Terrace. She and the boys will be the guests of honor at a party at the Eagle Pavilion next Wednesday.

“We don’t want to say good-bye,” says Kosak. “We want to personally hand out invitations for people to come to Vero Beach.”

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