This Rare Diabetic Koala HATES Having His Blood Sugar Checked, So Keepers Got Creative

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Diabetes is rough—especially if you’re a koala who doesn’t like being disturbed while you’re trying to sleep. Such is the case for Quincy, a male koala at the San Diego Zoo with type 1 diabetes.

Koalas are marsupial tree-dwellers native to Australia that eat mostly eucalyptus leaves. These cute creatures move slowly through life and can sleep up to 18 hours a day. Though they seem carefree enough, they do not like to be disturbed, especially to be poked for an insulin injection or a blood sugar check (but then, who does?).

It’s rare that a koala has type 1 diabetes, but Quincy is unique. He needs regular insulin injections, and luckily, koalas absorb insulin similarly to humans. But unlike a human, Quincy can’t tell his caregivers when he’s going low or high, and (like humans) constant pricking stresses him out.

Scripps Health and Dexcom teamed up with the staff at the San Diego Zoo to create a diabetes management plan for Quincy, and Dexcom donated Dexcom’s G6 continuous glucose monitoring system. This means that even when Quincy’s sleeping (which is nearly all the time) his keepers will receive updates about his blood sugar levels every five minutes via a smartphone app.

The sensor for the G6 needs to be inserted under Quincy’s skin every 10 days, but that still equates to much less inconvenience than having his ear pricked several times a day for blood sugar checks.

The koala will still need to receive his insulin injections, but the Dexcom G6 will allow zookeepers to better track how Quincy is responding to injections, make adjustments, and keep his blood sugar as steady as possible, which means that Quincy will be as happy as possible.

Dr. Athena Philis-Tsimikas, endocrinologist at Scripps Health, hopes that using the Dexcom with Quincy will help doctors learn how the device can be used for people who are non-verbal or can’t express themselves well.

“Quincy’s story is interesting because you have a patient that can’t talk to you and tell you what’s going on and how he is feeling,” Dr. Philis-Tsimikas said. She also hopes that children with diabetes might be inspired by Quincy.

Koalas are popular animals with children, and make adorable stuffed animals. Perhaps San Diego Zoo will be offering souvenir koalas complete with continuous glucose monitor accessories in the near future. Either way, we hope that Quincy will bring a smile to the faces of children with diabetes and raise more awareness about the condition.

Stay strong, Quincy!

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Katie Taylor started writing in 5th grade and hasn't stopped since. Her favorite place to pen a phrase is in front of her fireplace with a cup of tea, but she's been known to write in parking lots on the backs of old receipts if necessary. She and her husband live cozily in the Pacific Northwest enjoying rainy days and Netflix.
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