▶️ A near-death experience produces gratitude and healing through art

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One night last May, Gene Costanza woke up dying.

The Eagle Crest resident felt tightness in his chest, suffered nausea, started losing vision and had trouble breathing.

“I was pretty aware that this was a heart attack and it was going south,” he said. “And about that time, I said to myself, ‘I don’t think I’m going to survive today. This is it.'”

His wife Rhonda called 911 and Redmond Medics arrived in minutes.

“I asked if Rhonda could go, and they said no she can’t go right now, COVID,” Gene continued. “So we said goodbye to each other. Goodbye I love you.”

“As he’s going out the front door,” Rhonda remembered. “I’m looking and wondering if this is the last time I’ll be seeing him alive.”

The next stop was St. Charles Medical center in Bend.

“I was ushered into the cath lab so efficiently and then the team started going to work. They ended up giving me a stent in my right descending artery,” Gene said.

Conscious of some of what was going on, he said the medical team’s response to his emergency was tremendous and they kept him in the loop as the night went on.

“I felt like I was part of the team,” he said. “My job was to not die, and their job was to keep me alive. When they did the stent I could feel my symptoms reversing, I’m going from death to life. And I’m going to live.”

Gene immediately started thinking about how he could thank everybody involved.

The longtime landscape painter put together pieces of his own experience and decided to put them on canvas.

“Since that day I’ve tried to waste as little time as possible,” he said. “I’ve had literally hundreds of mornings since then. Hundreds of new mornings because of those folks. I checked in there with a broken top. Loved the image of Broken Top, aesthetically pleasing to me as a landscape piece. I thought, ‘I had a broken top and they fixed it!'”

He went to work in his garage studio and a year later produced a large-scale painting of Broken Top mountain at dawn, titled “New Morning for Broken Top”.

“The morning is breaking through. I wanted the spirits to be lifted by this painting. The light’s coming in from the left,” he said, describing the art. “The light is chasing away the darkness on the right of this painting. New morning is pushing away the night.”

Now that painting has a permanent home, hanging in a St. Charles hallway.

Gene says it was painted with “oil and gratitude.”

“This is exactly where I’d hoped it would go. Caregivers are going to walk by. Maybe they’ll look and it and go ‘we saved that guy’s life’. So yeah, this is exactly where this painting should go.”

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