Katie Dallam The Real ‘Million Dollar Baby’
Part One: The Fight for her Life!
Interview by "Big Dog" Benny Henderson Jr. (July 20, 2005) Part II
Many boxing fans may not be aware of the name Katie Dallam. They have never seen her fight, they don’t know her strengths or weaknesses in the ring nor will they ever have a chance to see her step in there ever again to duke it out with any opponent. She was never any part of a highly publicized pay-per-view extravaganza, never graced the front page of the Sports Illustrated or was highly touted as the next big thing in women’s boxing raking in millions; all she ever made was $300 for her effort. She never won a title or was hailed as a champion, in fact her career in the ring only lasted one night, 1:12 in the fourth round to be exact, but the impact of that night has lasted nine years and may have even had a hand in inspiring the mega blockbuster hit about a women in the sport of boxing.
The Doghouse would like to introduce you to Katie Dallam, the REAL ‘Million Dollar Baby’.
December 11th 1996 at the Fireman’s Local 77 in St. Joseph, MO, was were it all began and ended for Katie Dallam, career wise that is. The former service woman who earned a Masters degree as an Educational and Counseling Physiologist was about to make her pro debut after six weeks of weekend training, but the encounter would have a lasting affect on her and her family. Dallam was being brought in as the opponent for rising star and future four-time champion Sumya Anani, who was 3-0 at the time of their meeting.
From the start it was clear this wasn’t going to end well for Katie, who was forced to wear extra heavy gloves with extra padding in this bout. Sumya, who is known for her aggressive style, went to work on Katie, throwing wild shots that have been defined as ‘windmill’ like punches. Katie had no chance but to cover up and take the punishment that was being forked out. Katie suffered a broken nose in the first round but the ring physician didn’t look at the injury or any for that matter and the fight went on. Katie absorbed around 140 blows to her head but never gave in or tasted the canvas. In the fourth round after her manager finally witnessed enough of his fighter being pummeled he threw in the towel while Katie hung on the ropes, and moments later would be clinging to her very life.
After the bout Katie stated that her head hurt, she then passed out and stopped breathing; she was dying. With no medical supplies on hand Katie lay helpless until the ambulance made it to the arena. At the hospital the news was grim for the Dallam family. A major vein in her brain had ruptured and was beyond repair, Katie’s brain was near herniating and the top of her skull had to be removed to relieve the pressure. Most doubted she would even make it through the night, and even if she did live through this ordeal what would her life be like in the aftermath? Katie would remain in ICU for eight days and then be moved to in-patient care in Columbia, MO, for another six weeks.
What are warriors made of?
Heart, and lots of it, never surrender, never give up, and always fight the good fight until there is completely no fight left in you!
Rehabilitation would test Katie. She couldn’t remember the fight, she couldn’t find the words to describe anything that came to her mind or that she saw. It was a fight, but a fight she would eventually win.
Katie took the time out to give her thoughts on that fateful night in December of ’96, and please stay tuned for part two when we finish this story and get into Katie’s life now and also get the thoughts from her sister who was with her on that night and has been by her side ever since, enjoy.
Benny Henderson Jr.: First off Katie I just want to say thank you for taking the time out to tell your story to the Doghouse readers, it is greatly appreciated. How have you been?
Katie Dallam: I have been doing all right.
BH: Can you just take us back to the night of December 11, 1996, if you can remember what was running through your mind as you made your way to the ring, and give us your initial thoughts of Sumya when you got your first glimpse of her before the fight?
KD: Well that’s (laughs) that’s hard because I really don’t have any memory of it because of the kind of injury I got and everything. Like have told people before I have no memory of before the fight or after the fight, the only thing I remember about the fight at all is seeing her in the ring coming at me throwing her arms kind of wildly, both arms going, I don’t know how to explain it… (A voice in the background helps Katie out by saying windmill) like a windmill. Now my sister can help out if you want to get some specifics about what it was like that night she was there. She can tell you because I don’t have any memory of that time.
BH: What injuries did you exactly sustain in that bout?
KD: Of course the head injury, they didn’t think I would live through the surgery but they had to remove part of my skull and I guess the doctor said the blood had accumulated so much that when they removed the skull blood hit the ceiling and two of the major veins… (Her sister helps out again with the specifics) oh, the major vein in my brain was just completely shattered. They couldn’t sew it back together so he attached it and he didn’t know if it was going to hold or not. Then they said that my brain was in such bad shape that he thought I wasn’t going to live and everything or what I would be like if I did live. I am actually doing really well compared to what he thought. Then he had to wire my skull back together. They found out that a quarter of the upper right hand quatrain of each eye is blind and my nose was broken during the fight. My back was kind of messed up; my whole body was kind of screwed up. Mainly it was my brain that was their major concern. I know I was in the first hospital for about eight days and then they moved me to the second hospital for about six weeks I guess. Then I was put into outpatient therapy for a while.
BH: When did you come to realize that you were in this situation?
KD: I don’t know exactly when it was but I remember bits and pieces. I don’t remember anything about the first hospital at all. I kind of remember some things about the second hospital. The thing was with my injury is that I couldn’t find words for things so they had me doing speech therapy with this, well, I remember being in this women’s office and it was really weird because it was like I had been in a deep sleep or something and all of a sudden I am awake and she was showing me this spoon and asking me what it is and I was thinking is she stupid, doesn’t she know what that is? (Laughs) But there was no word in my head for it, I know what it is and what it is for but I have no word for it. So I start imitating eating but I can’t describe it to her, I can’t come up with any word so I think she kept asking me and I got frustrated. I knew me head hurt really bad. I remember my family being there and I don’t remember the boxing match and I didn’t think it was the boxing match, I thought I was in a car wreck or something. I was actually supposed to have another match and I was trying to get out of the hospital bed to go to the other one. I kept saying I got to go, I got to go, and they were like no you can’t box anymore. I didn’t want to believe that. That’s about it, I can’t really remember more than that.
BH: How long did it take you to recover from the injuries as far as walking and talking was concerned?
KD: Well, I was in a wheelchair for a while and I do have a memory of this woman at the second hospital wheeling me into this big… where you take a shower, and it was another situation where I come to and I was thinking why is she going to help me shower and I was very offended by that. I didn’t want her helping me but yet I couldn’t stand alone just yet. I remember having these horrible headaches in which I still have them, but they would hurt so bad and I would be exhausted, I always wanted to sleep.
BH: How has your life been since that point?
KD: Well, I tried to return to work but I couldn’t but I had a lot of sick time saved up so luckily that helped out at that point. I moved back to live with my roommate but the insurance said they didn’t cover outpatients. I wasn’t doing so well because I couldn’t remember even if I had ate anything during the day or what I had done, I couldn’t even remember how to use a phone, man, I just couldn’t do anything. So I was basically sleeping all day and I was alone most of the time and I became very depressed and I was seriously thinking about taking all my medication and killing myself because I didn’t know what to do. I couldn’t even think ahead enough to get my sister to come and help me but she drove from three hours away and she was going to take me to see this social worker that I have been seeing, and apparently when I went to see her she asked me if I was suicidal and I couldn’t lie, I was so honest at that point I said yeah. So she said that I either had to go into the hospital again or live with my sister so I moved to Kansas with my sister. So she fought for me to get outpatient treatment and everything, she has helped out a lot.
BH: Your sister sounds like a guardian angel.
KD: Yes she really is she has done a lot for me.
BH: You have overcome a lot, you weren’t supposed to live and you did, they didn’t think you would be able to walk and talk again and you are. You have survived a great deal with your injuries, what kept you going, what kept you fighting, what has been your drive all these years?
KD: Well, this is going to sound a little weird but it is the truth. When I was in the hospital it was touch and go for the first eight days, especially the first three days, they didn’t know if I was going to live or die. My sister thought I wasn’t going to make it that first night so she called everybody. She can tell you everything about the fight; everything that could go wrong went wrong, technically I should have been dead with all that went wrong. Well, I had this weird experience and people and can think what they want to think but to me it was a real experience. My mother who had died from breast cancer in 1990, it was like I was talking to her and this was when I was in the ICU and everything. I wanted to die and go be with her but she was telling me ‘no, it is not your time’, and I wasn’t happy with that answer. (Laughs) I really didn’t want to go back and be in this beat up body that couldn’t walk or talk and couldn’t take care of itself. So she and I are having quite an argument, not that we were really fighting but I was looking away from her. We were like in the clouds and I was not going to accept this decision, but she was very convinced that this was going to be. So finally I accepted it, my little sister was there with me and she said that the first couple of weeks it was kind of like I had this blank look in my eyes, like the lights were on but nobody was home and then all of a sudden one day I started talking again. I wasn’t making sense but I was back, I was me again. I guess in my mind that must have been when I finally decided ‘ok Mom, I will stay.’ I really think that is the way it went. So I came back sort of angry like damn it, I really don’t want to be here in this beat up body with all the pain I was in. It wasn’t any fun and relearning everything wasn’t any fun. But I knew that I had to do it, I felt like I told my Mom I would do it so I didn’t have much choice, I realized it wasn’t a choice and there was something she had told me and there was something that I haven’t finished yet.
For more info on Katie Dallam please visit: http://kddallam.com/index.html
I would like to thank Katie’s sister Stephanie for her help on this interview, and I want to give Katie a very big thank you, it is greatly appreciated.
A trust fund is being started in Katie's name. Katie never received any compensation for her injuries and although she is talking to the media, she has not received any money for doing so. Katie lives on what little social security provides to those who are disabled, which doesn't provide enough for food and medicine much less art supplies. Many times Katie has to choose between buying groceries or medications and there is rarely any money left over to buy paints or canvas. In addition, her medical bills remain high.
Katie will send a personal thank you note to everyone who donates, along with a picture of her with whatever painting she is currently working on.
Donations can be sent to:
Katie Dallam trust fund
PO Box 153
Spring Hill, KS 66083
This is not a pity trip or a money scheme, I personally know this, some people just need help. If you have the funds please give, every little helps and it is greatly appreciated.
The ‘Big Dog’
Part II: Katie Dallam: Finding peace while the fight continues
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