This story was originally posted on January 24, 2017, and has been updated here.
Trigger warning: This post features details of domestic violence that could be distressing for some readers.
On March 4, 2017, Melissa Dohme married Cameron Hill, the paramedic who saved her life. Over 200 friends and family attended the ceremony at The Lange Farm in Dade City, Florida, according to Good Housekeeping, as well as a small group of the first responders who rescued Dohme along with Hill in 2012.
— People Magazine (@people)
Dohme told Good Housekeeping the day was a "full circle moment," with the man who was there for both her "best and worst day."
"She has a single message to other women who are recovering from domestic abuse: 'Life and love after abuse is possible.'"
Oh hey! 👋🏻NBD The WEDDING in ! 💜Thank you Cameron and ! pic.twitter.com/dDQErZKVVj
— Brooke Palmer Kuhl (@rsbpevents)
When Melissa Dohme was 20, she was stabbed 32 times by her ex-boyfriend and left for dead. This year, she is going to marry one of the firefighters who saved her life.
Dohme met her ex, Robert Burton, in high school. Things were great in the beginning, but he became jealous and emotionally abusive. In an essay for the BBC, she explains how tough it was to leave someone she felt "needed help".
The abuse escalated from emotional to physical, and in October 2011, Burton became extremely violent. Dohme was able to get away and call the police, and he was arrested, charged with domestic battery, and sentenced to 10 hours in jail.
"I thought I was finally free of him," Dohme says. For a few months, she was.
But one early morning in January 2012, Burton called to say he'd gone to court that morning for the battery charge and needed "closure". If Dohme would just see him one more time, he'd leave her alone forever.
"I didn't listen to my intuition telling me it was wrong," she writes, "and that was the biggest mistake I ever made."
That night, Burton stabbed her. Some kids nearby heard her screams and called 911, but it only increased the ferocity of his attack. "He had every intention of killing me," writes Dohme. "He knew the police were going to come and he wanted to get it finished."
He left her in the road with just enough life in her to name her attacker for police. (Burton was caught, despite attempting to end things before police could find him.)
She was loaded into an ambulance, put on a ventilator, and airlifted to the hospital. Her wounds were severe: a broken skull and jaw, fractures in her head and nose, and a severed facial nerve which causes paralysis on the right side of her face.
"I later learned from the trauma surgeons that I died on the table several times and they had to resuscitate me over and over," Dohme writes. And miraculously, she survived.
Recovery was tough—when Dohme looked in the mirror for the first time after the attack, she cried. "I was only 20 years old. It was devastating," she writes. "However, my faith was strong and I knew I wasn't still here on Earth to be mad about what I looked like. I just felt blessed that I was alive."
Slowly but surely she started to feel, and even look, more like herself. She had implants in her teeth, nerve and muscle surgery to help regenerate her facial muscles and allow her to smile. And her scars, as scars do, began to fade.
As if Dohme's resilience and courage weren't already mind-boggling enough, she then decided to use her experience to help others, studying in leadership, and speaking at events for those in abusive relationships.
At one of those events in October 2012, she met the first responder team who saved her life—including firefighter Cameron Hill, who invited Dohme and her mother to have dinner at the fire department the following week.
Dohme had worried her physical and emotional scars would mean she'd never date again. But she writes that she couldn't stop thinking about Hill.
"I knew that I had feelings for him," she explains. "I wondered, 'Am I feeling this way because he was one of the firemen who helped me?' But the more we talked the more we realized we had in common."
It was soon clear that both their feelings ran deep. They started dating, and Hill backed her up when she testified in court against Burton in August 2013 . (Burton received life in prison without parole.)
"I walked out of there with my life back," Dohme writes.
Two years later, she was invited to throw out the first pitch at a Tampa Bay Rays baseball game, in recognition of her anti-domestic violence work. And there on the pitcher's mound Hill handed her a baseball. "Will you marry me?" it read. He got down on one knee.
Spoiler: She said yes.
The couple set the wedding date for March 2017, and Dohme confirmed all those who saved her that night (the police officers, the surgeons, etc.) would attend.
"Today I just feel very blessed to be here."
You can read Melissa Dohme's full BBC essay here. And you should, because while it is graphic in descriptions of violence, it is incredibly powerful and a testament to the human spirit. For more information on Melissa Dohme and her work as an advocate against domestic abuse, visit her Facebook page .
Those experiencing domestic violence can access confidential support at the National Domestic Violence Hotline: 1- or TTY 1-.