TAMPA, Fla. - The Tampa Bay area has watched Melissa Dohme fight for her life since she was a teenager, fresh out of high school.
In 2012, this young woman from Clearwater was thrust into a domestic violence case that garnered national attention. Her high school sweetheart – a young man she’d broken up with months before – ambushed her on the front porch of her home and stabbed her 32 times.
In the months and years that followed, Melissa has been in the fight of her life to survive the attack, both mentally and physically. For Melissa, though, surviving wasn’t enough. She wanted to thrive, and she has. In recent months, we’ve seen to what extent.
Her friendship with Alyssa Dudley, a local woman with a DV story hauntingly similar to hers, is inspiring. Our cameras were there during one of her many visits with the young DV Survivor learning to live again after a life changing attack by her former boyfriend. “I cry a lot… close my door… ask…why me”, explains Alyssa, fighting to get the words out of her mouth. Alyssa was violently ambushed on July 16, 2013, 6 months after breaking up with her boyfriend. He came back, surprising her at her St. Pete apartment and shooting her twice in the head and once in the stomach. Carlos Crompton, 39, was controlling, recalls her mother.
Miraculously Alyssa survived, but the neurological damage changed her brain – affecting her language, movement on the right side of her body, and more. “We draw on each other’s strengths”, explains Melissa, who felt a connection with Alyssa even before meeting her face to face. “I kept reading the article and I just burst into tears”, recalls Melissa. “This 21-year-old girl was in the same hospital where I had been - Bayfront Medical Center. The same doctors that saved my life were working to save her life and I just felt so called that I had to get there!” They did meet and the friendship that developed has pulled Alyssa out of the abyss of deep depression, and hopelessness about her future.
Melissa also helped Alyssa get a new friend, "Gracie Lou." The Labrador Terrier mix is a service dog that alerts Alyssa and her parents of oncoming seizures. Playful, loving, and specially trained, Gracie Lou is also helping Alyssa with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). Melissa, now a full time advocate with Hands Across the Bay, secured the service dog training for the rescue dog rescuing Alyssa.
“I want her to know how brave she is and how courageous she is because there's somebody out there that will see Alyssa and say ‘If she can get up every day and go forward, then I definitely can!’
And I feel like that's why God saved you”, says Melissa turning to Alyssa sitting next to her. “She's a complete miracle.”