I’ve been here one year, living in Gashaka-Gumti National Park in the east of Nigeria, on the border with Cameroon. And in one year of physically demanding work and a nutritionally poor diet, I’ve escaped illness.
But now, on my final day in Nigeria, I’m lying on my hotel room bathroom floor, sprawled within reaching distance of the toilet hole and shower.
Lauren, my research assistant, is feeding me bottles of water to keep me hydrated. She’s also checking I haven’t passed out.
My first delirious thought is that I have malaria because I have a full-house bingo card of symptoms – fever, chills, headache, nausea and vomiting, diarrhoea and muscle pain.
I survive the night, crawling between my sweat-soaked bed sheets, the toilet and the shower.
We take a taxi to the airport rather than squash into a minibus that’s bursting at its joints with people and luggage. I’m so weak I can barely lift my bags, but Lauren helps. I prefer travelling alone, but I’m grateful she’s with me.
Some Imodium, painkillers and antihistamines that make me sleepy get me through the flight home. When we touch down in Edinburgh, I have never been so happy to step off a plane after a trip.
After a few days home, I was devouring punnets of juicy strawberries, dozens of crunchy Granny Smith apples and bags of fresh dark green spinach. It was great to eat fresh fruit and vegetables again.
But although I wasn’t vomiting or feverish, I didn’t feel well. I had little energy, and food was never satisfying.
My doctor immediately referred me to the London Tropical School of Medicine. Over a week, I gave them my blood, saliva, urine and stool samples for analysis to some eager interns, dizzy from the excitement of what exotic illness I might have contracted from living a year in the west African jungle.
But all they discovered was that my leucocyte count, a type of white blood cell, was massively elevated.
The tropical medicine interns gave me a course of medication for a widespread blood infection and asked me to come back in a month.
During that month, I fell increasingly exhausted. I couldn’t concentrate on analysing the data I collected in Nigeria for my thesis. And my sponsorship money was drying up. So I needed to get well quickly.
I returned to the doctors and donated another round of bodily fluids.
My white blood cell count was still high.
The young doctors were puzzled. Other than weakness, fatigue and confusion, I had no symptoms that helped them identify why my white blood cell count was so high. Then, finally, my case started to attract the attention of senior doctors in the school.
As almost an off-the-cuff comment, a senior doctor said, “just give him some medicine for worms and let’s see what happens”.
“But haven’t we already tried that,” another doctor said.
“No, because we thought it would be some sort of (and they named some tropical disease that I don’t remember now)”, he replied.
“I know, but I don’t know what else to suggest,” he replied.
So I left their laboratory with some huge deworming pills, like some Ivermectin deworming medicine my aunt would give her horse.
And the deworming tablets worked! My white blood cell count was normal, and I felt great in just a week.
For months, worms had been growing and multiplying in my stomach or gut. My body did its best in fighting back with an army of white blood cells. But the parasites had been sapping the energy from my food before I could use it. And creating a constant stream of white blood cells is exhausting.
The young doctors, fresh from learning about all sorts of rare and weird diseases, leapt to complicated explanations for my illness. Of course, a rare diagnosis would have been interesting. But the solution was, in fact, simple…
I had worms, and some strong deworming tablets did the job.
I wished it hadn’t taken so long for the doctors to heal me. If only they’d considered a simple diagnosis first.
Much like the young, excited doctors searching for a complicated solution to my worm infestation, I am often guilty of expecting complex solutions to be the answer when simple solutions are often better.
I often see people creating complicated sales funnels with multiple upsells, downsells and crosssells that make the audience dizzy. Maybe they do this because they’re afraid of being turned down cold. So they try to cover all the bases so there’s less chance someone says “No.”
Before you spend days and weeks making a complicated sales funnel, check whether your product or service will sell or not. Start with one of your offers, share it with your community via email or social media and see how people respond. If there’s interest, create a page on your website with all the essential offer info and a form to sign up. For those that sign up for your offer, send them follow up emails to see how they’re doing. And then build your offer from feedback you get from people.
Until you’re certain people are interested in your offer, keep your sales and marketing strategy simple.