Anatomy, Medicine, Mercy and Spines; Oh My! by Cloudwhisper


Cloudwhisper discusses some facts about Briarlight and her injury

WARNING: This article contains a bit of squeamish material, such as illnesses and bladder problems along with bone breaking and terrible medical things. Look away if you get sick easily!
I like Briarlight.
I really do. But I don’t think she should’ve lived after her injury.
Jayfeather, then and there, should’ve fed her deathberries. Here in the article I have written, I explore Briarlight and her injury.

Firstly, the big question: What is your spine? What does it do?
A bone.
Yes that’s it.
However, it houses something that will make a doctor chew their fingernails and sweat like mad if you injure it; the spinal CORD. This cord has all the information from the brain coursing through 24 bones that connect your nerves called the vertebrae. These nerves control everything in your body, from your head to your toes. Each nerve does a different thing. From stuff like breathing to writing, it’s controlled by signals going down your brain to the cord.
Spinal cords are the reason why snapping your neck means death, as your brain is cut off from your lungs and heart. If your nerves aren’t completely severed from the break, you’re left paralysed. Which brings us to Briarlight.
From what the books say, we can assume she broke her spine somewhere above her pelvis. This means she cannot control her legs (obviously) her bowels and her bladder. She also cannot sense if there’s something wrong with her legs, like urinary tract infections, septic build-up, infections caused by small injuries, leg/tail fractures or cracks, or a bunch of other problems you can get in your lower half.
She also can’t feel or control her bowels and urinary units. She will defecate whenever she does, with no control at all. Newborn kits and puppies have this as well. If you watch them, you’ll see mama watching their backsides and liking the area around it. This is so they can massage out as much feces as possible so there won’t be a build-up that could prove fatal when their bowels rupture and release septic fluids everywhere into their bodies. Since they’re tiny and soft, this can easily be done for puppies and kitties.
But not Briarlight.
You may notice Jayfeather often cleans her bedding often each day. As I said, it’s because her bladder is uncontrollable so every day she soils herself, including when she sleeps. As we can’t get poor Millie to lick her butt so many times, she’ll probably go into a back-up. This will cause stress on her intestines.
Then she gets dysentery.
As yucky this article may be, I’ll be nice and not spill all the disgusting details. However for a quick outline, Wikipedia says this:
“Dysentery is a type of gastroenteritis that results in diarrhea with blood. Other symptoms may include fever, abdominal pain, and a feeling of incomplete defecation.

It is caused by a number of types of infection such as bacteria, viruses, parasitic worms, or protozoa. The mechanism is an inflammatory disorder of the intestine, especially of the colon.”
Ugh. Also, it needs lots of surgery to cure and it’s fatal without medical treatment. And who’s ever heard of cat surgery? But the stark fact is that spinal cord damage CANNOT be reversed. Many vets recommend you euthanise a cat with a broken spinal cord, in fact.
She’s trying to fight off her respiration problems as much as she can, but she can’t battle forever. If she doesn’t die by it, dysentery or other illnesses will send her to her grave.
Now onto my second point from medical things; Religious stuff. Or, in more depth, StarClan healing them.
I’ve seen many fans say that Briarlight should be healed. I say; NO. Why do I say this?
Brokenstar is why.
When Yellowfang clawed out Brokenstar’s eyes, he died. When he came back, he had no eyes.
StarClan occasionally heals a leader’s cuts, scars or organs, sometimes broken bones when they lose a life. But because Brokenstar came back without his eyes, I believe StarClan cannot heal cut out eyes. In my opinion, a lost eye is not as important as a broken spinal cord.
But for the sake of imagination, let’s say I’m incorrect and StarClan could.
But why?
Why should she get different treatment or higher treatment than Brokenstar, a CLAN LEADER, for StarClan’s sake?
Why not we heal everything? Longtail’s blindness, Brightheart’s face, Jayfeather’s scar (which, by the way, he got it from Breezepelt in The Fourth Apprentice when he suprise attacked him while Jayfeather was going to the Moonpool BTW) or maybe Bramblestar’s shoulder wound? (Thanks badgers and Hawkfrost and Tigerstar!)
That is simply not how Warriors works.
I think, it’d be best she was mercy killed. She shouldn’t be embarassed like this. Vicky said she actually wanted to kill Briarlight in TLH, but she didn’t because a friend of hers got paralysed.
I like Briarlight, but I hope there’s something in AVoS that says she died in her sleep soon.

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  • Well.. Um….. Briarlight is uh….. a very touchy topic around my friends…. Really liked your article though! But hey, even though we know Vicky isn’t exactly a “happy endings” kinda person, if she died, I would be heart-broken! You are dramatically correct about her spinal cord though. But she’s inspirational! But you’re right, he should’ve fed her death berries there and then, but….. Oh nvm me. Just battling myself…

    • Maybe it would be tough and Jayfeather should’ve fed her the berries. But imagine, the entire clan really admired, even if they didn’t communicate it well, a lot of the cats eventually grew to admire her perseverance! Imagine what a blow to the clan if she had died. No, I don’t agree.

          • I didn’t write the article, and I defintiley don’t agree with it. 😛 But I think there’s a bit of a problem with saying whether Briarlight should live depends on how inspiring her Clanmates find her, and not on her own right to live.

            • I meant your comment below, not the article…And I said, I agree with the fact she should live because she wanted to, but since you posted that view below, I came from a different perspective.

              • I definitely agree that she should live if she wanted too. I’m not saying she shouldn’t have, merely pointing out another reason.

  • As much as I understand where you’re coming from, I think this is kind of insensitive to Briarlight’s wishes. Yeah, she’s a fictional character, but just in the story ‘verse. It’s her life and her choice – you think Jayfeather should have just stuffed death berries down her throat even if she was crying and begging him not to?

    Briarlight has survived a few years now (if I’m remembering the timeline correctly) in this condition. Clearly, they have found some way for her to manage. Why kill her off now? She’s alive, healthy (as she can be in this condition), and seems happy now that she’s settled into a routine in Jayfeather’s den.

    The Warriors books aren’t always exactly totally accurate to how real cats act or anything like that, so maybe Briarlight’s injury isn’t being handled in a totally realistic manner. But I think if she has survived this long and she’s happy, why wish for her to be killed off? Jayfeather looks after her as much as possible, and seems to have done a pretty good job keeping her alive so far.

    And while I understand what you’re talking about with these horrible conditions that come with a spinal break for cats, it seems a bit insensitive to say that Briarlight’s only good option is death, when the books have shown her surviving in relative health and happiness for a few years now.

    • Yes, I agree, if she wishes not to die, and she has a choice (she survived with this for quite a while now) she shouldn’t be fornpced to die.

  • There is a very obvious reason why StarClan didn’t give Brokenstar his eyes back: He killed or inderectly killed dozens of cats and kits. Briarlight was injured trying to save the life of an elder. They are very different cases. I don’t think they can heal Briarlight but “because he’s a Clan leader” isn’t the reason that Brokenstar “deserves better treatment”

  • This was a very interesting article! 😀 I often thought that, realistically, Briarlight should probably be dead by now 😛

  • amazing work!!! i have studied cat anatomy and i agree, well done! i would love to see more articles from you 🙂

  • But Brokenstar went to the Dark Forest, a punishment. StarClan did see Brokenstar as a cat who deserved to be punished, so they didn’t care to fix his eyes.

  • I think your article is interesting and I love your use of medical terms and whatnot; however, I also think it’s insulting and insensitive to people with disabilities. Just because Briarlight can’t use her back legs doesn’t mean she shouldn’t live or that she couldn’t be happy. 🙂

  • Nice article, Cloudwhisper! Honestly, we all know by now that the Erins don’t exactly follow up to real-life cat science 24/7, so through magic means and probably a little bit of StarClan help, Briarlight has survived with her injury, along with a very capable albeit very grumpy medicine cat beside her.

    • Agreed! Thus the magic for the series. Though Jayfeather is grumpy for many reasons, some I can’t really blame him for, but he’s still a good medicine cat. I can seen how Yellowfang and Leafpool would be proud of him.

  • You make a wonderful point when it comes to real life medical problems of cats and the series not always following by those rules. But sometimes, for sake of the magic of the story, a little inspiration can go a long way. Even for a Clan cat.

  • In regards to Jayfeather killing her outright, I have to agree with what Jay said earlier, it’s Briarlight’s choice. She knew it would be a struggle but she decided she wanted to live, admittedly yeah the Erin’s might not have been totally realistic with her injury but they showcased some of the struggle. Now, had Briarlight wanted to die then I’d agree with mercy killing her, (I’m trying to recall if we’ve had that happen in Warriors). But it’s her life it’s her choice and she chose that she wasn’t going to let her disabilities dictate her life.
    She’s happy and Jayfeather doesn’t complain about helping her, and though he may be a grouch, I doubt he’d prefer to kill her.
    As for her needing to die, admittedly while I’d like to see them thin out some of the cats some more. I don’t want them to kill her for killing more cats sake. And I feel that if they were truly going to have her injury do her in, they would’ve done it by now, that’s not saying that they couldn’t in the future, but it does feel like if they intended to they would’ve done it by now.
    As for her getting healed, absolutely not. That is unrealistic, it makes no sense, no, no, no, no. Part of what makes her a good character is her struggle dealing with her disability and how in spite of the injury she still manages to be a bright light in ThunderClan. That’s why she’s BriarLIGHT.

  • Jetclaw’s right. Briarlight would have been dead by now if it was because of her injury. But I think she had a tough life. Tell me if I’m wrong but I think she was the kit that was almost bit by an adder (Thanks to Honeyfern that she survived) and she had Greencough when it was going around Thunderclan. Briarlight’s story is very inspirational because she’s survived this long when she could’ve died long ago. She’s also a different kind of Warrior. She may not hunt but she plays with the kits and helps the Elders calm down after a bad dream. Overall she’s an amazing cat.

  • Wow, this is so fascinating! (I’m not squeamish in the slightest). But I do like Briarlight, and although she might be a burden to her family and the Clan, she still deserves to live. Many kits don’t even survive until they’re apprentices, for StarClan’s sake, so she is lucky in certain aspects.
    Cloudwhisper, I like how in this article you haven’t ranted about the way Millie treated the rest of her kits because of her, like most articles with the word ‘Briarlight’ in them; instead, you’ve just stuck to the facts.

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