Doctors often go out of their way to make their patients feel better or make endeavors to reduce their stress and anxiety levels. However, it is not every day you come across a doctor who goes to people’s weddings, without knowing the bride or groom, to collect flowers for her patients.
This is what Eleanor Love does and it has brought the young doctor accolades and appreciation from all quarters. Today, her non-profit organization, The Simple Sunflower, has some 200 volunteers.
Flowers for patients coping with chronic illness
Eleanor, who graduated from the Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) School of Medicine, developed the idea when interacting with patients coping with chronic illness. She realized that in most weddings, a section of the flowers that are discarded are in good condition and so can be re-used. She thought that by using those flowers, she would be able to cheer up her patients.
She said: “One of the challenges of being a medical student is that it can be very difficult to contribute to the care team. 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.”
Eleanor would attend wedding venues, after receiving permission from the wedding coordinators, to collect the leftover flowers. The wedding bouquets and leftover flowers are then given to her patients.
Since many of these patients do not receive many visitors, receiving flowers does make them feel happier. The elderly patients have found the idea heartwarming and thanked the doctor for her kind efforts.
An initiative that blossomed into a rewarding venture
It was in 2019 that she started the initiative The Simple Sunflower. The organization has supplied flowers to over 760 patients admitted at the VCU Medical Center. Now, even fellow students have joined the venture. Those who cannot volunteer directly donate money or offer vases.
Eleanor calls the florists about wedding venues and then contacts the brides and grooms individually, asking them about their plans for the flowers used in the event. In most instances, she receives a positive response from the parties. Normally, some eight volunteers from the organization go to wedding events and bring back flowers.
Soon after her project kicked off, the volunteers started bringing flowers for 20 or more patients a day. While the pandemic did take a toll on the work, she did not give it up. Now, the project has resumed since weddings are taking place, albeit at a slower pace. The response, she feels, has been good and encouraging so far.
Eleanor feels that starting the project was a good idea for her, as she has a deep love for flowers and gardening, which comes from her parents. As a child, she had a penchant for sunflowers and so the project name is quite apt, she feels.
Now, she is making efforts to turn her venture into a blooming non-profit entity. She said that even for the doctors who see their patients in better spirits after receiving a bouquet, it leaves them a heightened feeling of satisfaction.
She added: “Being able to help deliver the flowers to those patients is very meaningful because you just see those patients’ faces light up. You connect with them on a different level. It’s so gratifying to see the patients who receive our bouquets. It reminds me why we do what we do.”