Medic who saved woman from domestic violence proposes at Rays game
She thought she was throwing the first pitch but medic Cameron Hill popped the question instead; he met her three years ago on a call when she was stabbed 32 times by her former boyfriend
By Kristen Mitchell
ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — After being stabbed 32 times by her former boyfriend, Melissa Dohme said none of the first responders who took care of her thought she would survive — except one.
That man, Clearwater firefighter-paramedic Cameron Hill, helped transport Dohme from the back of an ambulance to a helicopter bound for a hospital. He later told Dohme he had a gut feeling he would see her again.
On Monday night Dohme, now an outspoken advocate for domestic violence victims, was on hand to throw out the ceremonial first pitch at the Tampa Bay Rays’ game against the New York Yankees at Tropicana Field when she received a surprise that brought her to tears.
Ten months after the Jan. 24, 2012, attack, Dohme and Hill formally met for the first time as part of her mission to meet and thank those who helped save her life. The next week Hill invited Dohme and her mother to attend a dinner at the fire station, and even though she had sworn off dating, she turned to her mom on the way home and told her Hill was just the kind of man she could see herself with.
“I was as giddy as a girl with her first crush,” Dohme said.
After dating for 2 1/2 years, Hill greeted her on the field Monday and handed her a baseball with a question printed on it: “Will You Marry Me?”
Overcome with emotion, she replied “yes” before hugging him and throwing the first pitch.
Dohme was 20 years old when Robert Lee Burton stabbed her 32 times. The attack occurred in the 300 block of Glenwood Avenue in Clearwater, just across the street from where she lived with her family. Since then she has undergone surgeries including facial reconstructive surgery, and still hopes to recover from nerve damage on one side of her face. She wants it to heal before the wedding, tentatively planned for sometime next year.
Burton, whom Dohme said attacked her after she told him their relationship was over, was sentenced to life in prison in October 2013.
Since the attack, Dohme has become active in efforts to support domestic violence victims. She and Hill fell in love after they reconnected in 2012, and he was at her side during Burton’s trial and sentencing.
Hill remains at her side, and Monday night a cheering crowd witnessed his ultimate commitment to her.
Dohme said Hill has taught her much about love, life and healthy relationships, and always is around to cheer her up and cheer her on. He didn’t see her as just a battered woman, but as Melissa, the hunting and fishing country girl of his dreams.
“He has loved me through all of it,” Dohme said.
Julie Weintraub, vice president at the Gold and Diamond Source, works closely with Dohme as part of “Hands Across the Bay,” an organization that raises domestic violence awareness. She said Hill approached her about wanting to do something special for his soon-to-be fiance. Weintraub helped make arrangements with the Rays, and told Dohme she would be throwing out the first pitch to honor her commitment to the cause.
Tampa Bay Rays spokesman Rick Vaughn said the team’s staff was eager to help.
“It was amazing. I think as soon as everybody figured it out, everybody stopped what they were doing and kind of locked into what was happening on the field,” he said.
Seeing the couple’s love story get so much attention has been touching, Weintraub said. The Rays posted photographs of the proposal on Facebook — a post which had received more than 160,000 “likes” and 8,500 “shares” as of Tuesday afternoon. And the couple’s story is set to be featured on the television show “Inside Edition” this week.
Friends, family and firefighters were in a donated suite at the baseball game to celebrate the occasion. How far Dohme has come since the attack has been an inspiration, Weintraub said, and it shows she is a fighter.
While Dohme has had to live with the physical and psychological effects of her attack, Hall has helped her heal and taught her happy endings do exist.
“He is my silver lining,” she said. “He means everything.”
©2015 the Tampa Tribune (Tampa, Fla.)