Produced by Liza Finley
According to the Centers for Disease Control, women between the ages of 18 and 24 experience the highest rate of relationship violence of any age group ... and never is it more dangerous than when they try to leave. It's a disturbing trend known as "breakup violence."
Melissa Dohme, just 20 years old at the time, was viciously stabbed 32 times outside her Clearwater, Fla., home --simply for ending a relationship. Some of the images in this story are tough to look at, but Melissa wants you to see them. With violence against women dominating the headlines, she says we can't afford to turn away. This is her story.
Melissa Dohme: When I heard that -- they were going to take me by helicopter to the hospital ...I knew right then that they didn't think I was going to make it ... they only airlift patients who are so severe that they are about to die.
I remember thinking ... at one point, "He is doing exactly what he said he was gonna do." He always told me that if ... I was to break up with him, you know, he would come back, and kill me.
On January 24, 2012, I walked outside my home. It was a very dark and eerie night. ... There was not a sound in the neighborhood.
And no one knew I was out there.
I went outside to meet Robert Burton ... in the hopes that he would really leave me alone forever.
He said that he just ... wanted a hug. It's all he wanted. ... A final goodbye, all he wanted was closure and I basically, you know, walked outside to my murder.
And, you know, I ... walked up to him. ...He looked kind of empty, no emotion ... absolutely nothing in his eyes. Just soulless ... I mean he was just blank face.
He put his arms around me for a hug ... Squeezed me a little bit ... And I didn't even say a word, He never said anything and I never said anything.
I heard a click ... I didn't know what the sound was, he just started just stabbing me with that knife ... he just kept coming at my face.
I knew my face was completely covered in blood, and my hair felt soaking wet. I mean, it was seriously, like, dripping wet, like I just got outta the shower.
I was trying to scream and I'm trying to crawl and I wasn't getting anywhere.
I felt myself dying so ... I couldn't really breathe. .... I felt myself I really was not going to make it. I really said "this is it."
I just kept praying, "Just please don't let me die (cries)."
Officer Melissa Harris | Clearwater Police Department: It was a Tuesday morning, approximately 3:18 a.m. ... I was dispatched to a 911 call ... of a female that was stabbed.
911 call: She's lying in the street dead. I watched him kill her. Oh my God...
As I came around the west side of the park, I saw something moving on the side of the road, in the grass. And as I got closer I realized that it was ... a female, and she was screaming for help ... And she was reaching up to me begging me to help her.
When I first saw Melissa, she was covered in blood. ... To this day, I've never seen anyone injured so badly as she was.
I honestly didn't believe Melissa would survive.
I asked her who did this to her. And initially, I thought she said, "Robbie Murton." ... So I repeated back to her, "Robbie Murton." And she said, "No." Finally, she says, "B. Burton." I spelled it back to her ... B-U-R-T-O-N. And she said, "Yes." And it was just the relief on her face that I'd finally gotten what it was she was trying to say to me.
She told me Robert Burton was her ex-boyfriend.
As Melissa was giving me the information regarding Robert Burton's appearance and what he was driving. ... I was giving a B.O.L.O. [be on the lookout] on the radio to other officers that were in the area.
It was my intention for other officers ... to hopefully be able to locate him, but also to let them know that he's definitely armed, he's definitely dangerous -- he has the ability to kill.
I asked Melissa, "What did he stab you with? A small knife? A large knife? She said, "Both." When she said that to me, it just gave me chills ... I don't know, I just felt so bad for her.
Vincent Supernor | Clearwater Fire & Rescue: When I got to Melissa's side I kneeled down ... She looked at me and she grabbed my arm. And she said, "Help me, I'm dying."
The look in her eye was pure terror, and it's a look I'll never forget.
She had multiple teeth knocked out. She had lacerations to the left side of her face. She had long blonde hair and it was absolutely drenched, soaked in blood, which made it very difficult to actually see the wounds.
So I had to go more hands on. I was feeling her head and actually you could feel where the knife penetrated her skull, where your fingertips would actually slide in to where the knife stabbed her.
Our biggest concern was her blood loss. We could control the blood that we see. But it's the bleeding that we don't see that's gonna kill her.
We knew she needed to get to a trauma center, and get to a trauma center quickly. So I called a helicopter. So while I continued patient care on scene ... Melissa is awake. She's alert which is amazing.
Her will to survive was strong ... the defense wounds on both arms were just very, very traumatic. Both arms were basically butchered, you know. She put up one hell of a fight.
Joanne Dohme | Melissa's mother: I was awakened by the Clearwater Police Department yelling, "Clearwater Police" and banging frantically on my door ... The policeman asked me if I was Joanne Dohme and I said yes. And he said, "Your daughter's been stabbed."
He said, "Hurry up. ... I want to take you to her" ... and he hurried me across the yard then I realized he wanted me to see her before she died.
I saw her slippers. She obviously ran out of them. They were several feet apart. And I said, "Oh, she got those for Christmas."
As I approached the scene I passed a police car and then we went around the crime tape and then I went under it.
...and they were putting Melissa in the ambulance ... And I started to get into the ambulance. And they said, "Mom stays out." And I was devastated.
So I just kept saying, "Please God, don't take my girl. Don't take my girl."
Officer Melissa Harris: Once we were inside the ambulance, Melissa said, "I feel tired and I need to go to sleep." ... I felt like she was giving up ... like she had given me everything she could give me and she was done.
Cameron Hill | Clearwater Fire & Rescue: Usually with a person that has been stabbed that many times, you don't think that they are gonna make it ... But as the helicopter was lifting off that night, I had this crazy little feeling in my head that I would see Melissa again.
A DANGEROUS SECRET
Michelle Dohme | Melissa's sister: My brother came on the phone and said, "Michelle, Melissa has been stabbed and it just doesn't look good." ... I literally collapsed. I couldn't gather myself.
I had to also think about what am I gonna bring? Am I packing for my sister's funeral? ... Or am I just bringing clothes for the hospital? I had to sit there with an empty bag in my hand staring at my clothes telling myself: "do not pack anything black."
Dr. Jeffery Johnson | Bayfront Health Medical Center: When Melissa showed up to our trauma center here in St. Petersburg, she ... was dying before our eyes. ... And without a rapid intervention it would be over quick.
So the moment she hit the door we started resuscitation, we started CPR, we started replacing her blood volume. And then our next point of attack was to stop the bleeding.
Melissa died twice in our emergency room-- and each time we were able to get back. I wasn't giving up and she wasn't giving up. And so, if she wasn't gonna give up, our team wasn't gonna give up.
After three hours of ongoing resuscitation, she squeezed my hand ... and survived this injury.
Officer Melissa Harris: On my way back to the police station that morning I learned that they had located Robert Burton in Pasco County.
Det. Joseph Ruhlin|Clearwater Police Department: I think he had made up his mind that he was gonna kill himself.
Mr. Burton's vehicle was found crashed into the side of a building. He was in the vehicle ... slumped over the wheel. ... He was found to have ingested sleeping pills. ... Mr. Burton was unresponsive and was taken to Bayonet Point Hospital
Approximately two days after this incident, Mr. Burton was lucid enough in the hospital to be able to make an -- a statement. At which time he confessed to us what happened:
Detective: OK Robert, do you know why you're here?
Robert Burton: Yes, I hurt somebody.
Melissa Dohme: I remember when I woke up in the hospital ... and I remember just thinking I'm alive. ... and was just so relieved and thankful to be alive.
I motioned, like, "Someone give me a pen." ... And I wrote, "Dead, alive, or jail?"
I just was still so scared if he could come through the door.
Det. Joseph Ruhlin: We told her that he was in custody, that he was charged ... and that he was gonna go through the court system and we're gonna follow through all the way.
ROBERT BURTON WAS CHARGED WITH FIRST-DEGREE ATTEMPTED MURDER
Melissa Dohme: I asked them, "Did you tell him that I was alive?" ... And they say, "Yeah, we're the ones that told him." ... I was, like, "What did he say?" You know, "what did he do?" And he looked at me and said, "He really had nothing to say." And I'm, like, "Nothing?"
Det. Joseph Ruhlin: She went through the story of her relationship with Mr. Burton ... that basically she was all he had.
Melissa Dohme: When Robert and I first started dating, you know, I learned a lot about his past. And I felt very sympathetic for him. ... he had a rough childhood. ... he was always taken between Grandma and Mom. ... And once his mom, you know, got remarried they had some children ... and he was kind of like the outcast. ... And he would always express that to me, of how he felt that. He's kind of like the outsider of his family.
I wanted him to be loved and accepted. And, you know, at my house, he was. We would hang out every day. ... We were, like, inseparable. We were best friends. We did everything together, really I mean, I loved him. He loved me.
And he would get me flowers a lot. He was very charming.
When I started applying for colleges ... something changed. ...I graduated with 600 hours of volunteer work at the hospital because I wanted to be a nurse.
He just became very jealous of me and, you know, he didn't want me ever succeeding ahead of him, so he put me down and called me names. ..."Stupid -- dumb." And it would escalate into, you know, I was always a "bitch."
I tried to get away but he would threaten suicide if I was to. And he wanted me to stay. And I did. ... and it then just progressively even got worse.
One day in my room-- Robert put his hands around my throat to strangle me. And eventually finally, he let go. ... he told me that if I was to tell anyone ... he would kill me and kill my mom. ... I was so fearful and terrified that I -- I remained quiet.
Until one night in October 2011 ... I'll never forget it.
THREE MONTHS BEFORE THE ATTACK
Melissa Dohme: He all of a sudden, started punching me and pulling my hair.
I just started running ... I grabbed my phone, dialed 911 and I just kept running. And you know, I'm running, running, running.
Melissa to 911: Come on, please? ... How much longer? Can you tell me where they are?
... and then all of a sudden it hit me that he knows I'm talking to the police. And he told me that if I was to tell anyone he would kill me, he'd kill my mom.
Melissa to 911: I don't know if he went in my house. I don't know where he is...
And so I turned around. And I started running back home.
Melissa to 911: I can see him.
911 Operator: I'm sorry?
Melissa to 911: I know where he is. He's coming towards me...
And Robert catches me.
Melissa to 911: [screaming]
911 Operator: She's screaming bloody ...
Melissa: Ow! Stop!
Robert Burton: No, I'm not going to stop.
And at that moment right then is when -- two police pulled up.
They told me basically, you know, we don't wanna keep coming out here. ... the girl always goes back. ... And they said, "We don't ever wanna see you again."
I remember telling the officers, "You've gotta come and tell my mom with me."
I was so ashamed of myself.
The one person in the world I wanna make proud is my mom. How much am I letting her down right now? You know, I just kept this huge secret from her. And it was weighing on me for so long. So I just -- I hated it. I mean it was horrible.
Robert Burton was arrested for domestic battery that night.
ROBERT BURTON WAS JAILED FOR 10 HOURS AND ORDERED TO STAY AWAY
Melissa Dohme: It was so good to just be old me. ... I was in school full time in college and ... I was always hanging out with friends ... everything that he didn't want me to do, I wanted to do, you know.
One of my best friends from high school and I ... planned that we were gonna go backpacking through Europe.
And then ... for my 20th birthday, I celebrated by going skydiving.
It's like everything was given back to me. And I thought, you know, I was -- everything was going good ... I had my life back. And then all of a sudden it was, you know, ripped right out from underneath me.
REMEMBERING THE ATTACK
Melissa Dohme: I hadn't seen Robert Burton in about three months when he began calling me over and over out of the blue. Woke me up in the middle of the night. ... And he said that he just ... wanted a hug. It's all he wanted.
And ... I'm, like, "No, leave me alone. I have class. Like, seriously, stop."
And he began to cry. "'After everything we've been through over the last two years, you can't just give me a hug?'"
It just seemed kind of pathetic and I really just wanted to get it over with so I can go back to sleep ... So I reluctantly agreed.
When I walked outside ... my gut was ... saying, "This isn't right ... But now I'm already out here. He sees me." ... So I'm like just let's get this over with.
It is all like a blur, I remember pieces of it.
He immediately stabbed me right here in the back of my shoulder and then right here in the back of my neck.
The knife just kept coming down at me.
I remember hearing ... my skull crack. Over all of my -- he kept coming at my face.
And then my mouth filled with blood ... "Oh, my God, you know, he's going to kill me. ... This is a fight for my life ... I have to scream. I have to run."
I was losing blood everywhere. I kept trying to like crawl away from him...
I was so weak ... I felt like I was going to die right there.
I remember seeing a girl ... And I saw the phone in her hand. So I knew help's coming. ...This girl, my angel, whoever she is, is going to call for help. ... next thing I know ... she was gone.
911 call: I watched him kill her. He's a white male about 225 pounds. ... Oh my God, oh my God....Oh. My... God...(crying)
Melissa Dohme: He went and got a second knife. Holding me down on the road trying you know, stabbing with the knife into my face.
The look in his eyes was full evil.
My memory's kind of ... foggy here. And I look over, and ... Robert just drives away. I started to feel myself life slipping away...
911 call: She's lying in the street dead...
So I just began to pray. ...I remember praying I don't want my mom to walk out here.
I just prayed over and over, "please don't let me die, not for my mom, for me." And then my prayer had to change, because I felt I really was not-- gonna make it.
And so I-- I prayed to God, "Please forgive me for my sins and take me to heaven."
The moment I was doing that ... I saw a spotlight-- shine on me.
I just felt like such a relief that help was there.
They put me ... in the ambulance and it was so bright ..."please this is not heaven, right?" This is the ambulance ... And that's the last thing I remember.
Michelle Dohme | Melissa's sister: It said Melissa's room. There was a picture of her on the board. But I didn't know who was layin' in the bed. Her face, I mean, normal size face, it -- I didn't expect that. I wanted it to be my sister.
But I wanted it to be the sister that I knew, not the sister that I was forced to look at. ... I just grabbed her little pinky, 'cause that was all that was stickin' out.
Melissa Dohme: I remember when my sister first came into the hospital room, so the first time she got to see me, she was singing "Never Alone."
And the whole room changed. Everyone who loved me was there ... and that's all that really mattered. I wasn't alone ... And knowing I wasn't alone in this was what ... was vital in getting back on my feet.
Det. Ruhlin: At this point we had a lot of evidence against Mr. Burton.
We had Melissa's statement. We had a confession from Mr. Burton. ... We did find Melissa's blood in the car.
[A] knife and this sheath were found at the scene. What we found in the car is a baseball bat, a hatchet, the baton ... that's similar to what the police use, it's an expandable weapon. He mighta brought all these weapons along with him to attack Melissa.
With all the evidence and everything we had, it looked like Mr. Burton was going away for a long time.
WHO'S THAT GIRL IN THE MIRROR?
Melissa Dohme: [Looking at photos]: This is the girl that walked outside that night and this is what I looked like and this is who I was.
It was about day six or seven when I was moved out of the ICU into a ... hospital room on the trauma floor. And ... in this room, there's a mirror.
So I remember standing in front of the mirror and just crying.
This is who I saw looking back at me and it's not this girl ... I couldn't smile. Half my hair -- I didn't have teeth, I had scars all over my face. I couldn't even barely walk. That's who this is.
So it was hard to accept and at that time I couldn't accept it.
Audrey Mabrey | Survivor: I believe Melissa and I met for a very special purpose. I wanted to mentor and guide her through part of her journey that I knew she was going to face.
I knew because I had lived through it myself. ... I was attacked in 2009 when I was 26 years old.
I was separated from my husband Chris, who's a retired New York City detective ... we had two sons together.
Chris ... did not use a knife or a gun. He used a hammer to bludgeon me in the head, and then a candle and gasoline to set me on fire. ... I was burned over 80 percent of my body.
It came to the point where I wanted to see what I looked like ... I made my way to the mirror in the bathroom ... and I sort of did that put your hands on the sink and look up into the mirror.
I absolutely looked like a monster. Unrecognizable. And I just remember thinking that I would never look the same again. There was a moment after that I said to myself that he had robbed me of what he had robbed me of physically but I was never gonna let him rob me emotionally or mentally because that belonged to me and it didn't belong to him and slowly but surely I was able to accept who I am today.
Melissa Dohme: Meeting Audrey - she was the first person I ever met that truly understood the internal and emotional damage that was done ... even though I survived this horrible attack, still internally I wasn't recovered.
Audrey Mabrey: Melissa hadn't traveled through every chapter that I had traveled through. And I think I was sent to her and she was sent to me. And I needed to teach her about the next chapter which was forgiveness.
Audrey in court: I have forgiven Chris for his monstrous actions and I will continue to encourage others to forgive as well which will include my two beautiful sons.
Audrey Mabrey: Forgiveness wasn't the first choice I made but it was the most important one because it allowed me to be free.
Melissa Dohme: I didn't think I could forgive him. ... how do you forgive someone for ... stabbing me and over and over, not stopping? ... I begged to him. I pleaded. I cried. I just begged anything to make him stop and he wouldn't stop. ... I mean, how can you forgive someone like that?
As a result of the attack I had a stroke ... from all the loss of blood.
Many doctors and therapists told me that I'd probably never ... walk by myself again. They told me that I might never be able to talk again. I was told that I will never be the student that I was before.
I couldn't walk by myself. So they kept a belt around my waist. ... I just remember thinking ... you have to get through this and you have to show everyone that you can do it. And not only for them, I really had to show myself, too.
I asked the doctor ... "Do you think I will be able to go to Europe in May?" And she looked me in the eyes and said, "'If you work really hard in therapy ... you should be able to go.'" And I said, "No. That's all I had to hear. Thank you. I'm good. I'm great."
I'm, like, "I'm gonna work so hard," just like she told me to. And I'm going to Europe. ... And that's what set the mood for my entire recovery really.
So ... one foot in front of the other, I learned really how to walk again.
Three weeks after the attack-- I walked out of the hospital ... on my own, no cane, no wheelchair.
It was a Friday when I was going home. And I had classes all day on Tuesday and Thursday. I said, "OK Mom, we're gonna go on Tuesday."
I didn't really know how I was going to do it but I just loved school I loved going to school. I loved, you know -- I didn't want to let it stop me is the bottom line.
MELISSA ENDURED MONTHS OF GRUELING PHYSICAL AND PSYCHOLOGICAL THERAPY TO GRADUATE ON TIME
I went from learning how to walk to walking across the stage at graduation, all within the same year. And I was chosen as the commencement speaker.
Audrey Mabrey: Watching her deliver that speech ... was a very proud moment ... you're just proud of this young woman who is really coming into her own.
Melissa at graduation: The harder the journey the more glorious the victory. ... When the entire world seems to be against you telling you you can't do it or don't even try. Instead listen to the voice inside you that whispers yes, I can.
Melissa Dohme: I did make it to Europe ... the trip changed my life. ...I remember being in Paris and staring at the Eiffel Tower. And it was glittering at night. It, like, sparkles. And I was just crying. And my friend's, like, "Why are you crying? Like, it's so lame." And I'm, like, "I'm so happy. Like, how am I here? Do you realize that ... I was almost murdered. And here I am in front of the Eiffel Tower. It really showed me that you know I can do anything.
Melissa Dohme: All I wanted to do was get on that stand in court and show him that I'm alive. Here I am. I'm beautiful and you didn't win.
ONE YEAR AND ONE MONTH AFTER THE ATTACK
The first time I had to face Robert Burton in court ... was at a hearing where I had to tell all the things that happened before the attack ... to see if ... all of this information could be entered into the trial. ...I was so nervous going up there ... And so I'm telling, you know, things that I've never told before. Like the ... times that he put his hands around my throat.
And he knew that I never told anyone these things. And he was staring me down. I was up on the stand and he just stared at me. I mean, would not look away.
And it's like his eyes were like burning a hole through me and he was really just staring me down. ... And I remember thinking OK ... I'm just gonna look at him back. If he's gonna look at me, then I'm gonna look at him. ... It was really was a moment that changed everything really. I felt so empowered.
Det. Joseph Ruhlin|Clearwater Police Department: Mr. Burton stayed in jail for almost two years while this went through the court system. ...at first he tried to claim he was incompetent. That didn't work.
Melissa Dohme: We were all out waiting for the trial to start. You know, the jury was being selected. ... And Robert went up to the stand and he said, "I can't go to trial, I'm guilty. I'm guilty. I'm pleading guilty. I can't do it."
What? it was just so shocking.
I mean, it happened so fast ... It was all done. So, I very obviously was satisfied, I was very happy. But I was - it -- it didn't feel like the end yet because I knew that he still had to be sentenced.
OK, now I have to wait 60 days for sentencing but I'm ready. I'm totally ready.
A NEW LOVE
Melissa Dohme: I would never have thought ever -- ever in a million years that you know on this night that totally changed my life - it was the most horrific thing anyone could ever have gone through --would something you know beautiful come out of it.
I was giving my first speech that I've ever given about my story ... and right in front of me there were two firefighters ... and Cameron was one of them.
Cameron Hill | Clearwater Fire & Rescue: I was like, "Wow." I can't believe I'm looking at her right now and she's doing as well as she's doing.
Melissa Dohme: Totally dream come true. I mean every girl loves, you know, firefighters. And let alone the ones that saved me. I mean, it was seriously like a dream come true. I was so excited.
Cameron is giving a hug to my mom and the look on his face is so sincere. I just love it, I mean every time I look at it I love it.
Cameron Hill: The thought came back to me, as the helicopter was leaving ... I'd -- I had that feeling that I was gonna see her again.
Melissa Dohme: And then next thing I know, he was messaging me online, inviting me to dinner at the station ... Oh my g -- I mean, I counted, like, every moment until that Tuesday at 6:00. And I was telling mom, "Like, we need to bring something. ... I was like, "Let's make cupcakes, you know ... And so we made cupcakes. And we said on them, "Thank you to, you know ... our heroes."
Cameron Hill: She couldn't stop laughing. She was giddy the whole night. So at that point, it made me like her even more.
Melissa Dohme: Cameron showed my mom and I around the station. I tried on his uniform, and his hat, and his big, you know, jacket.
And he let me sit in the truck. And, you know, it was just like-- I mean, (laughs) I felt like-- my first crush all over again.
We started talking and we realized we have a lot in common. ...and we found out that we both enjoy shooting. And that was how he kinda, you know, asked me out on our first date. And he said, "'you and I should go shooting sometime'" and I was like hands down, "I would love to go shooting with you," you know and we've been shooting together ever since.
I will never ever be defenseless again in my life. ... Under any circumstances I will be able to defend myself.
We went on another date the next day and the next day and the next day and we've truly been inseparable ever since.
Cameron Hill: I'm crazy in love with Melissa Dohme.
Melissa Dohme: Is this really like this fairytale that I think it might be?
Cameron Hill: Never met anybody like her.
Melissa Dohme: To me he's like Prince Charming.
Cameron Hill: I would like to spend the rest of my life with her.
Melissa Dohme: I love him. I love him.
Melissa Dohme: At the sentencing they ... said it's time for victim impact statements. And now this was my moment. ... My time to ... let Robert know and the judge know everything he really put me through.
And this was finally my moment to basically, you know, everything that I went through, here it is.
Melissa in court: Your honor, I pleaded and begged for Robert to stop. I didn't get the chance to walk away with 10 or 20 stabs but only until he believed I was finally dead and that my life was taken. I believe the only justice in return is a life sentence.
I only came there with one thing to tell Robert directly ... and the only thing I felt that he ever even deserved to know or anything was I came there to forgive him.
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 Dohme: I had to show him that, you truly have no hold on me. And when I walk outta this courtroom, I'm letting go of you. I'm letting go of the memories of you. I'm letting go of the pain. I'm letting go of the hatred, everything. You can keep it all.
And I remember the judge saying-- to him ... "'What drove you that night to go to her house and do what you did will never leave you and it's part of you and I'm giving you the maximum sentence, I'm sentencing you to life in prison.'"
I had Cameron on one hand and my mom on the other hand and everyone else around me. And, you know, I'm walking out of here and-- with my life back.
I remember looking at him one more time and they ... were doing his fingerprints. And I watched the door close. And I opened the next one and I walked out.
A NEW BEGINNING
Melissa Dohme: It's been a year and a half since Robert Burton was sentenced to life in prison with no parole. And since then, my life has completely changed.
I work as a full-time advocate at Julie Weintraub's Hands Across the Bay. ...And what we are most passionate about is teen dating violence prevention and awareness and domestic violence.
There is help out there and you can get through it. And there is life after abuse. There's a wonderful life there for you.
It's my purpose. I'm living out my purpose every day that I walk into work.
I never want another girl to go through what I went through.
Physically -- I'm still making progress in my recovery.
They've taken nerves from my leg and they're in my face now growing. So in a couple of months, they're actually gonna take muscle from my leg and connect it to the nerve, so whatever this side does, this side will also do ... the goal is that I'll have a full smile again.
There's been a lot of great things that have happened in my life, but nothing quite like what happened on May 11, 2015.
I was asked to throw the first pitch -- for the [Tampa Bay] Rays game -- on behalf of my work as an advocate.
I immediately called Cameron and told him [laughs] that I was invited to throw out the first pitch.
And I was like, "Well, we're really gonna have to practice because I don't know anything about, you know, throwing a baseball, really."
A lotta my friends and family were here to watch me throw out the first pitch. And they told me to go down to the pitcher's mound.
And I'm waving ... just waiting for the ball, really.
...and then they said, "Here is first responder...
And I was like, "Oh, this is so sweet [laughs]. They're having Cameron bring me the ball."
I was really nervous -- really nervous ... I wanted to make sure it went as planned.
As soon as he got right next to me, he handed me the baseball and he had -- wrote on the baseball, "Will you marry me?"
Cameron Hill: That's when I got on one knee and -- proposed to her.
Melissa Dohme: Is this for real? Like are you really doing this? I was a total wreck. I almost think I could have fainted [laughs] it was so -- I was so surprised.
Cameron Hill: I wanted to make it special for her. ...I figured that was a pretty special way to do it.
Melissa Dohme: It just probably was the best moment of my whole life, the happiest moment of my whole life --
I can't believe he put all that planning in ... and it just showed me also how much he loves me.
And it is the most beautiful ring I've ever seen. You think your whole life about getting married and meeting the love of your life and having a future. I couldn't ask for anything better.
Melissa and Cameron plan to be married in the spring of 2017.
MELISSA'S MEDICAL & SURGICAL CARE
Melissa Dohme has undergone 10 reconstructive procedures since leaving the hospital. Audrey Mabrey has had nine surgeries and will have at least 10 more.
Helping survivors of domestic violence cope with their injuries is so important to the doctors and staff at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary and Massachusetts General Hospital that they donate their services for free so that survivors can improve the quality of their lives. The program is called Facing Forward - a collaboration between MGH, MEEI and HAVEN (Helping Abuse and Violence End Now). In addition to the medical services patients will receive, they are also able to receive support and safety planning from HAVEN as they go through the process.
Melissa Dohme goes to the Facial Nerve Center every few months for medical Botox treatments, physical therapy and scar revision. Doctors there are performing two complex surgeries to correct her partial facial paralysis. The first one involved transplanting a nerve from her leg to her face. The second operation will attach muscle from her leg to the new nerve.
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HELP & RESOURCES
- The National Domestic Violence Hotline provides information, resources & support to anyone affected by domestic violence. Free, confidential, 24/7/365 | 1-800-799-7233
- Love is Respect is a joint project between the National Dating Abuse Helpline and Break the Cycle to provide resources for teens, parents, friends and family, peer advocates, government officials, law enforcement officials and the general public. All communication is confidential and anonymous.
- Loved to Death: A "48 Hours" investigation exploring dating and breakup violence through an inside look at the murder of 18-year-old Lauren Dunne Astley at the hands of her ex-boyfriend, Nathaniel Fujita. The couple had broken up, reunited, and broken up again at the time of the murder. Nathaniel had trouble dealing with the breakup, and Lauren secretly went to visit him one last time. It was the last time she was seen alive. | Resources for teens and parents
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