If you’ve ever been confined to a long stay within a hospital environment or know someone who has, then you most likely know how emotionally debilitating that experience can be.
Eleanor Love, a young medical student, saw first hand how ill, long term patients would react if they were fortunate enough to receive a bouquet of flowers from a family member.
Almost immediately, their mood would change. They would start to feel good about themselves knowing that someone on the outside cares. Love also realized that the longer a patient stayed confined to a hospital bed within a healthcare facility, the less likely loved ones would continue visiting on a regular basis.
“One of the challenges of being a medical student is that it can be very difficult to contribute to the care team,” said Love, who grew up in Arlington, Virginia. “You are there primarily as a learner, but you want to make an impact on your patients, and you don’t have the same knowledge as physicians.”
Love thought to herself, “How can I at this stage in my training make an impact on patients?”
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The young, 27-year old medical student would soon graduate from Virginia Commonwealth University School of Medicine and was working toward completing a general residency at Riverside Regional Medical Center. She struggled with the idea of how to alleviate some of the boredom, anxiety, loneliness and depression many of her patents suffered from. Eleanor took note that those feelings started to diminish once the residents received flowers from a loved one.
That’s when Doctor Love had the ingenious idea of contacting wedding planners, wondering if she could drop over after a wedding so she could befriend the bride and groom after the wedding party and ask if she could take the flower arrangements left behind. More often than not, they said yes.
Dr. Love brings hospital patients leftover flowers from weddings — a project she began in 2019 while a medical student at @VCU. Her nonprofit, The Simple Sunflower, has delivered 760+ bouquets to our patients. Read her story on the @washingtonpost: https://t.co/LDe26wTa5l— VCU Health (@VCUHealth) July 9, 2021
“I just broke down and I cried,” recalled patient Connie Melzer, 68. In early 2020, Melzer was recovering from a heart condition at Virginia Commonwealth University Medical Center in Richmond, when Love walked into her room with a bouquet.
“When you’re there six to eight weeks, it’s a big deal,” said Melzer.
Today, Doctor Love’s nonprofit, “The Simple Sunflower”, has provided over 1,059 bouquets to patients at VCU Medical Center since October of 2021. The outreach has been such a success that Doctor Love has brought more than 200 volunteers on board, and has also expanded to other hospitals in Virginia.
“Once the word got out, folks started reaching out to us,” Love said.
Before medical school, Love had worked part-time in a flower shop. She had cited several recent studies suggesting that flowers and certain plants helped hospital patients heal. Another study found that viewing plants helps reduce pain levels, anxiety, and fatigue in patients recovering from surgery.
“Offering flowers to our patients provides the same benefit,” she said. “Ultimately, that saves the hospital money if the patient doesn’t need that much pain medicine, or even if the patient can leave the hospital a day earlier.”
Robin Foster, director and professor of the Child Protection Team at VCU Medical Center, also weighed in on Doctor Love’s unique method.
“I do think that flowers help with the healing process,” said Foster, adding, “Your mind needs to be in the right place to successfully complete that journey.”