An Interview with Kat Mische Elle
Sean, tell us about the story of how Peaman came to be.
My name is Sean Pagett, known as Peaman on the Big Island of Hawaii in the town of Kona. I was given this nickname as a child in this community 35 years ago.
Peaman, what does your name mean?
Pea (pronounced: Peh-a) means a celebration or carnival. Every day as a kid when I went to school, I brought all the sports stuff for everyone to use and play with.
I was always the organizer of sports. So, the Aunties would call me Pea. As I got older, they started to call me Pea Mana, (in the native Hawaiian culture, the sacred term mana is known as spiritual energy of power and strength).
So, your given name from the community means the celebration of life, spirit, and strength?
Yes. The Americanized version in how it’s pronounced is Pea Man (like peas). It was just easier to stop correcting people [laughs].
Were you born on the Big Island?
No, I was born in Manhattan Beach, California, in 1963, the day after Christmas. Sometimes people call me the Prince of Peas. Since the Prince of Peace was born on the 25th.
When I was one day old, my mother walked me down to the beach in her arms. My mom didn’t need to recover from the birth; she was tough.
Manhattan Beach was still pretty much a sleepy beach town when my dad worked at Northrop aerospace engineering, and my mom had a little clothing boutique.
When I was five years old, my parents decided we would move to Kailua, Kona – Hawaii because the entire area of Los Angeles was growing so fast. After we moved, they soon created new businesses on the island and settled in.
It was a great place to grow up. Everybody in the town felt like family.
Being active was a big part of my life. I loved sports and anything that involved being in the ocean as a kid. I wanted to do anything that would let me play outdoors.
I was almost ten in April of 1973, near Easter time when we went back to Manhattan Beach to visit my aunt. It was a buying trip for my mom’s boutique back in Kona.
My mother, brother, and I had gone out for dinner on April 5, 1973. After dinner, we walked down the strand, which runs along the beach by the Manhattan Pier.
Two lovely ladies had stopped and asked my mom if she wanted to talk about Jesus. They had their little chat while my brother and I kicked around in the sand.
When my mom finished her conversation, we began to head back up Eighth Street, which crossed Manhattan Avenue. It was nighttime by then and dark out, but there were streetlights to help light the way along the sidewalk.
When the three of us began to cross the street, we heard the roar of a car engine, which turned out to be a Corvette. It blasted out from one of the side streets with the tires screeching out of control.
My mom and I were towards the middle of the road by the time the corvette showed up on the street with us. As soon as my brother heard the car, he took off and ran. My mom and I hesitated. We looked back, wondering if we should go backward or forward.
By then, the car was coming straight at us. When we tried to dart in one direction or the other and the car seemed to keep zigzagging in the direction we wanted to go.
It all happened in a split instant. And then we both were struck by the car.
It was so quick. The next thing I know, I’m hovering in a place with no fear, anger, sadness, just stillness.
At that point, my mom and I were going towards the light. The light felt like the collective love of everyone who ever existed. That is the best way I could describe it.
I wasn’t sure where we were going or what we were doing. I was going towards the light in tunnel vision and didn’t see anything around us. My mom’s last words to me were, “Everything is going to be okay.”
That was it. I was fading off and then I heard the words, “You’re not even close.”
I felt as if I turned around and started returning to where my body was on the street.
My mom was going, and I was staying. At that moment, it wasn’t traumatic. It wasn’t anything. For me, my body had flown across the street. When I started to come back, I had intense peripheral vision.
I could look down the road, and I could see the corvette, and the driver was trying to get his car over my mother’s body, and then he burnt rubber and sped away. As I looked across my body, I could see the reality of everything. My body was vibrating, and everything was hypersensitive. The first thing to catch my focus was the wires that hung from the poles above me crackling loudly.
I then heard feet walking in the sand on top of the asphalt. As an instinct, I tried to slide my body away from the road, but I couldn’t get very far. The first thing I noticed on my body was that my right leg was contorted into a very awkward position where it shouldn’t be.
The steps grew louder, and this man came out of one of the nearby apartments who, as I was later told, moved my leg down so it had blood flow again because otherwise, they might have had to amputate it. Then the first words I heard were from my brother saying. “Mom is dead.”
I was in my little world when the paramedics, fire trucks, and police officers arrived. Later I was told that the impact on my mother could have only happened if the driver was going seventy miles per hour on this side street, said the officers.
Now I’m in the hospital and I hear the doctors discussing how they may need to amputate my right leg along with other options for putting me back together again. They did fifteen hours of surgery to successfully save the leg.
My left shoulder was broken, and my scapula had been torn off my back ribs as well. I was a mess. I stayed in the hospital for a long time. After a few months, I returned to Hawaii.
I was on crutches and going through additional surgeries and my healing process. Two years later, I returned to being a normal kid with a little limp. I started back up with surfing and with all my favorite outdoor activities. I felt driven to be back and active in sports because it made me feel alive, plugged back into my life and out of my thoughts.
By the time I was 17, I had become a competitive runner. But during one race I broke my femur while running. It just cracked.
What did the doctors say happened?
At that time, they discovered that I had osteoporosis and told me that I had the bones of a 70-year-old.
At the age of 17?
Yes. The accident crushed my pituitary gland and put my body in a forever challenging place. I healed myself again, got back outside, and enjoyed my life.
Peaman, what inspires you to keep going so strong?
I’m just stubborn. I love what I do. The bottom line is I like moving my body to honor being alive. Athletically pushing and challenging myself reminds me of my gift for being here. Even after the leg fracture, I still did Ironman the next year at 18. My mind was focused, and so I achieved it.
You are the epitome of hope and determination.
Thank you. I feel blessed to be an example for people by just living my life.
I had a person share with me about their drug addictions and realize they were letting their entire family down. And then he heard about me and claimed it saved and changed his life. It’s humbling, uplifting, and amazingly beautiful to know I made a difference somewhere.
What is coming up for you with the rest of the year?
I like putting on races every month for the Big Island community, known as the PEAMAN races. It is an excellent gathering of people from all over who join in and grow the bond in our Ohana. (Ohana is a Hawaiian word that refers to a person’s extended family, which can include friends and other important social groups.)
What is the best way for people and fellow runners to see what you are up to?
Instagram and Facebook are the best places to see about upcoming events @PeamanPeaman, and Facebook is PeamanPeaman.