By: LANCE GRIFFIN | Dothan Eagle
Published: June 29, 2012
Updated: June 30, 2012 - 8:48 AM
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The sound of Kid Rock blasted from the stereo and permeated the makeshift gym at CrossFit Embrace in Dothan.
The thud of free weights hitting the floor competes for supremacy with Kid Rock along with the booming voice of the instructor shouting words of motivation.
It is 100 degrees outside and humid. Standing motionless will produce a healthy lather of sweat. The CrossFit participants have already lifted weights, ran, and lifted more weights.
Joey Beckman stands off to the side, lifting the heavy bar and accompanying weight to his chest, lowering it, and lifting again.
The sounds are his guide. The stereo is to his right. The CrossFit workout people are behind him. Instructor Landon Brazell is about 20 feet behind and to the right.
His world is dark now, but his brain attempts to paint a picture in his mind.
The stereo looks like this. My friends look like this. My chalky hands look like this.
His friend Wayne McCullough stands in front of him and watches every lift.
“C’mon. Keep going,” McCullough says.
For Beckman, all of a sudden blind at 24, CrossFit is his sanctuary.
Beckman had it all along, this congenital defect. He never knew until a few months ago.
Beckman came to CrossFit in the fall of last year to drop weight in order to meet requirements for military reserves. In just more than a month, the rigorous workout routines and healthy lifestyle helped him drop more than 30 pounds to 255 from his initial weight of around 290.
That is when he met McCullough.
“I remember when he walked in and he was a pretty big guy,” McCullough said. “I was thinking ‘Finally, somebody I can beat.’”
“He kicked my butt from the beginning,” admitted McCullough, a warrant officer in the U.S. Army.
Beckman moved to Tuscaloosa in April and got a job as a guard at a prison in Bessemer. He soon started experiencing severe headaches. The last one he had before seeing a doctor was accompanied by partial blindness.
Beckman was diagnosed with Arteriovenous malformation, an abnormal connection between veins and arteries. It is hereditary. Most people never know they have it.
Along with the headaches, Beckman experienced pressure on the brain. Doctors were forced to perform a procedure that resulted in the loss of his sight.
Beckman moved back home recently and began to try to adjust to his new reality.
He wanted to return to CrossFit. The participants there say the camaraderie is as important as the workouts. Everyone there called Beckman “Walt”. No one is sure why.
The questions lingered in his mind.
Could he do the workouts? Would he get in the way of everyone else? Would he be too much of a burden?
Beckman said the encouragement of McCullough helped him return to CrossFit, along with the warm reception from staff and fellow workout partners.
When Beckman returned to CrossFit, Wayne McCullough, U.S. Army Warrant Officer, cried.
“When he came before, he pushed me every day,” McCullough said. “We want to see each other succeed. Whatever Walt gets out of coming here, we get a lot more out of him being here.”
Beckman said he can do most of the workouts he did before. His depth perception limits his ability to do some, but just a few.
Of all things, his sight.
Joey Beckman, the movie freak. Joey Beckman, the 24-year-old who owns almost every Disney movie ever made. Joey Beckman, who owns a big screen television to appreciate the richness of the colors in his Disney movies.
Joey Beckman, the Oregon football fan who began rooting for the Ducks because of the visual impact of their uniforms.
“I’m not going to lie. I have my moments,” Beckman said. “I ask ‘Why my vision?’ Why couldn’t it be something else? This sucks.”
But the moments are few. Most of the time, Beckman is content with adjusting to his new life. Most of the time — even in the middle of the thumping music, thudding weights and loud voices — Beckman is at peace at CrossFit.
“I like it because you’re able to get in shape ,” Beckman said. “It makes you feel good about yourself. And there’s the friendship . ”
Beckman is still adjusting. He is becoming more familiar with his surroundings and his new iPhone is equipped with apps designed for blind people.
He doesn’t spend too much time dwelling on the grand issue. Maybe soon, his brain will paint that picture for him.
Beckman’s mother, Randy, believes God is directing the circumstances for a still unknown but good reason.
Meanwhile, Beckman lifts.