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Brody on gurney

Brody is wheeled in the MRI suite.

This morning, Brody was brought to Health First’s Viera Hospital for an MRI scan. He is one of the first bears in history to undergo such a procedure—and certainly the youngest.

As you may know, Brody has been struggling with mobility issues since last summer. Though pelvic surgery and stem-cell therapy showed promise initially, we began to suspect at least some of Brody’s ailments were neurological in nature earlier this year.

These conditions are difficult to diagnose with the tools that are readily available to us, such as conventional X-ray and ultrasound machines. MRI scanners produce detailed, three-dimensional images that give us the best possible look at soft tissues like the brain and vertebral disks.

Although the hospital is only a five-minute drive from the Zoo, this was far more complex than a simple trip down the road. Our animal care staff and Health First’s radiology specialists collaborated for weeks to ensure the entire procedure went as smoothly and safely as possible.

The process began around 8 a.m., when Brody was anesthetized in his habitat and brought to the L3Harris Animal Care Center for intubation. Once Brody was deep asleep, we loaded him into a crate and drove to the hospital.

Two veterinarians stayed in the MRI suite with Brody to monitor his vitals while Dr. Pierre Bichsel, a veterinary neurologist from Animal Specialty & Emergency Center of Brevard, reviewed the images in real time. A keeper and a curator observed the procedure from an adjacent room, prepared to assist if needed.

After the scan was complete, Dr. Bichsel and his team withdrew a sample of Brody’s cerebrospinal fluid for laboratory testing.

Brody was brought back to the Zoo and recovered from anesthesia without issue.

Our staff, Dr. Bichsel and veterinary radiologists will review the results of today’s tests to develop a new treatment plan for Brody. Keep an eye on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for updates.

Pulling this off was no small feat, and we are incredibly grateful to Health First for answering our need and their commitment to Brody’s wellness. Health First has been a valued community partner of the Zoo for over decade, and this latest act of generosity is yet another example of Health First going well above and beyond for Brevard County.