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It’s an invasive species that’s taking over Hawaii’s coral reefs, but that’s not the only issue when it comes to roi.
Roi, also known as Peacock Grouper, is a carrier of a ciguatera, a toxin which can cause serious illness in people who eat it.
Makiki resident Sudsiri Roberts recalls the day a family friend unknowingly gave her two roi to cook for dinner.
“About 15 minutes just had to go to the bathroom zoom, zoom,” Roberts said. “Someone said they have nauseous, vomit, but not me.”
Roberts felt feverish and had body aches.
“The bone aching, all the bone inside, especially my leg and itchy,” Roberts said. “Itchy inside the nose, inside the eyes, inside the ears.”
She says she scratched and slapped her skin so hard, she bruised. She was rushed to the hospital.
“I told my daughter that maybe I would die,” Roberts said.
Doctors learned that the 77 year old had consumed roi. Tests showed she had ciguatera poisoning.
“When I’m going to get better? The doctors said they cannot do anything,” Roberts said. “I said, ‘How long it takes?’ They say can take three weeks, three months, or three years.”
It’s been nearly two months and she continues to suffer from leg pain, hot and cold flashes, depression, and hallucinations.
“I can see like somebody and this side too,” Roberts said.
Roi was introduced to Hawaiian waters in the 1950’s as a food source, but has become a killer on the reefs.
Researchers say a single roi can kill 146 fish a year, proving disastrous to indigenous reef fish.
According to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, roi is the source of nearly a quarter of all of ciguatera poisoning cases.
“You don’t smell the poison,” Roberts said.
Roberts says as a child she suffered from malaria, which killed her sister. She says this is far worse.
She’s already lost 10 pounds and is sharing her story so others don’t suffer.
“You cannot destroy that poison, even you fried them, you cook them, you dry them. You salt them, never die,” Roberts said. “Be careful.”