Melissa Dohme was stabbed 32 times by an ex-boyfriend. He always said he would kill her if she tried to leave. Melissa refused to give up and has a message for her attacker. "Here I am. I'm beautiful and you didn't win."
Melissa Dohme, 20, was a young woman with big plans and a bright future. She was studying to be a nurse, volunteering at a local hospital and planning a backpacking trip to Europe when a brutal attack changed the course of her life forever.
Trauma surgeons worked on Melissa for five hours before they could stabilize her. Because of the multiple stab wounds, her blood was leaving her body so quickly and couldn't get to her brain and vital organs. She flat-lined twice.
Dr. Jeffery Johnson, a former trauma surgeon in Afghanistan, said he hadn't seen such injuries since the battlefield.
Three hours after the attack, police found Robert Burton. His vehicle was found crashed into a building.
Burton, who had ingested a number of sleeping pills in a suicide attempt, was found slumped over the wheel with the car still running. The right wheel of his truck kept spinning until it ground through the pavement.
As the physical wounds began to heal, Melissa's determination and inner strength helped her to heal emotionally. She learned to walk again and went on the backpacking trip to Europe she had planned before the attack.
At a hearing before the trial, in February 2013, Melissa had to recount and relive the terrifying night in which she almost lost her life. She says that Robert stared straight at her and it felt like his eyes were burning a hole right through her.
Robert Burton was sentenced to life in prison without the possibility of parole. During her impact statement, Melissa said, "When you choose to forgive those who hurt you, you forever take away their power and that's what I'm doing today. Robert, I forgive you for coming to my house and attempting to murder me."
Melissa was so grateful to everyone that helped save her life that fateful night that she made it her mission to meet and thank them all personally. Here she is with the team from Clearwater Fire and Rescue.
"I really wanted to meet everybody that I just had to say thank you. I felt so called to just find every person and let them know how much they mean to me," Melissa said.
Melissa credits another domestic violence survivor with helping her come to terms with what happened. Audrey Mabrey's husband bludgeoned her with a hammer and then set her on fire burning more than 80 percent of her body.
Audrey and Melissa now work together as advocates.They have teamed up to help other victims of domestic violence at Julie Weintraub's Hands Across the Bay, an organization based in Clearwater, Fla. The nonprofit works to prevent domestic violence and help families in crisis.
Melissa has made a remarkable recovery since the attack that almost ended her life. She believes that she survived to help and inspire other victims of domestic violence to speak up and fight back.
"Audrey and I, we want to really change lives, we want to end domestic violence and end teen dating violence. Together feel like we really are an unstoppable force, you know, we're ready to change the world," Melissa said.
Three years after paramedic Cameron Hill saved the life of Melissa Dohme, who'd been stabbed 32 times by an ex-boyfriend, he proposed to her at home plate before a Tampa Bay Rays game Monday, May 11, 2015.