Alright, many of you already know my opinions on this and the facts I've presented about Briarlight. I've commented on many blogs about Briarlight and often people have fought me over my opinion.
But I thought it'd be best if I actually wrote a full blog about what's happening to poor Briarlight.
And why it is my opinion that Jayfeather should have fed her deathberries and let her die peacefully upon finding her with a broken spine.
So herein, unless I specify otherwise, I will be presenting nothing but hard facts I've either gained through research online or through my own neurology classes in college and what they mean for Briarlight.
Let's start with this.
What is the spine and what does it do?
Your spine is a bone, nothing more. It's what's in the spine that causes doctors to panic when you've broken it: the spinal cord.
The spinal cord is the information highway of your body. It transports messages from your brain, down the spine, and out the nerves on each side of your vertebra (24 bones in your spine) to wherever the message needs to go. Those nerves control everything in your body. Different nerves going thru different bones control different things. The control of every part of your body, from involuntary functions like breathing to voluntary functions like writing relies entirely on these messages sent from your brain and down your spine.
This is why you die when you completely break your neck. It's not the damage to the spine itself, but the damage to the cord. When the nerves break at a level above your lungs and heart, your body stops functioning because it is cut off from the brain. If the nerves aren't completely severed from the break, however, you are left paralyzed because of the damage. At times your nerves can even heal at least somewhat.
More often, though, it is the lower spine that's broken, which leaves only the body beneath the break paralyzed. Which brings us to Briarlight.
Briarlight appears to have broken her spine a bit above her pelvis, judging by the descriptions we've been given in the books. Also, judging by the fact that she can't even feel her lower half anymore, we have good reason to believe that the spinal cord is also completely severed at the break.
This means that she cannot control anything below the break, including her bowels, her legs (obviously), and her bladder. She also cannot tell when there is something wrong with her lower half, such as urinary tract infections, septic build-up, infections caused by small injuries neither she nor her blind caretaker notice, leg/tail fractures or cracks, or a slew of other problems you can get in your lower half that she can no longer feel.
There's also the problem of her inability to control her bowel and urinary movements. Her body will still release urine and feces, but she can no longer control them. Kittens and puppies have similar problems when they're first born. If you observe newborn animals, you'll often see their mothers keeping close watches on their backsides and licking the area around their bottoms. This is to massage as much feces as possible out of the young animal's body so there isn't a build-up that could prove fatal for the infant when their bowels rupture and release septic fluid into the animal's body. This can be done for infant animals with their small, soft bodies.
This is, sadly not true for Briarlight. You'll often note in the books that Jayfeather constantly has Briarlight's bedding changed, sometimes more than once in a day. This is because she cannot control her bladder or bowels, meaning her body lets loose whenever it has to. She's likely soiling herself several times a day, including when she sleeps. However, since she can't simply have Millie lay there and massage her multiple times a day to help her get her feces and urine out, it is more likely than not that eventually she'll have a back-up. This back-up will lead to her intestine going under stress and likely getting damaged.
And then she'll get dysentery.
I won't get into the gory details of dysentery other than the fact that, without surgery (surgery that cats most certainly cannot perform), it's fatal. If you want to know more, read up.
But here is the stark fact about Briarlight's condition, as provided by petmd.com:
- "Unfortunately, there is no treatment currently available to reverse spinal cord damage. There is also no single therapeutic protocol agreed upon among veterinarian; often, treatment to treat secondary effects will vary from patient to patient.
- The prognosis of cats with spinal cord damage is not good. Paralysis is always permanent and many veterinarians will recommend euthanizing the animal so that it does not suffer -- and possibly die from -- respiration difficulties."
Even if Briarlight was a kittypet she wouldn't stand a chance unless she belonged to very wealthy Twolegs that were very much attached to her and would rather put her on so many drugs that she couldn't think straight than let her die.
Briarlight's already shown signs of respiration difficulties, and though she's fighting it off as much as she can, she can't run away from it forever. And if that doesn't do her in, dysentery or any of the other injuries and conditions I listed above will.
Why StarClan Cannot and Should Not Heal Her
I've seen many fans saying that StarClan should heal Briarlight somehow.
But for that to happen would be ludicrous, in my opinion.
First off, I've never seen proof that StarClan could heal such a complex injury. When leaders die, StarClan has been shown with the ability to heal cuts and organs on occasion, along with broken bones at times.
However, what leads me to believe that StarClan cannot heal Briarlight's spinal cord injury would be the case of Brokenstar and his eyes.
Brokenstar lost his second to last life to Yellowfang when she clawed out his eyes. However, when he came back to life, he still didn't have his sight back despite his eyes being otherwise healed.
And since StarClan has never been seen withholding treatment for a leader's rebirth in the past, no matter who the cat was, this leads me to reason out that the reason Brokenstar couldn't see after being brought back was because Yellowfang had damaged the nerves connecting Brokenstar's eyes to his brain, and StarClan couldn't heal such an injury.
But, for the sake of thoroughness, let's say I'm wrong and StarClan can do so.
Why should they?
What makes Briarlight more special than Wildfur, who died of the same injury she currently has?
Why should StarClan go out of their way for one warrior? Healing a leader when they're killed is one thing: a Clan needs their leaders for as long as possible, or else they may fall apart. Without the Clans, StarClan cannot exist since they'd eventually be forgotten by the descendants of the Clan cats and would fade. This gives StarClan actual motive for healing the leaders nine times before letting them die completely.
But plenty of warriors have been injured. If StarClan were to go out of their way for this one cat, why shouldn't they heal every cat that ever broke a bone or got sick? There'd be no way to do it and it'd be completely unfair. And since StarClan is at least supposed to be fair and just, they can't go out of their way for one warrior. There's no ethical way to do it.
I realize Briarlight is important to many fans of the series and that many think that StarClan should do it anyway, but there are some things that StarClan either can't or shouldn't do.
Why a Mercy Killing Would be Best
And now onto my opinion.
I've liked Briarlight since she was born. She always proved to be a trooper, and she still does to this day. But it's a cruel thing to leave her alive in her condition.
Yes, she can do her exercises, but in the end it's more likely than not that she'll die a very painful death. She should have already, and Vicky has been noted as saying that she would have let her die in The Last Hope had it not been for a friend of hers that was also paralyzed recently. And, honestly, I understand this reasoning. I don't blame Vicky for not wanting to include a paralyzed character dying when someone close to her is suffering the same condition, though humans are much more likely than cats are to survive with spinal cord injuries.
So I'm looking at this from the perspective of the Clan cats and not the writers.
Jayfeather should have given Briarpaw deathberries upon discovering her in her condition. It would save her and her family a lot of pain and grief. Not to mention embarrassment on Briarlight's part. You remember what I wrote above about how she can't control her bowels? This means it's likely she's having accidents all over camp without realizing it until she smells it in front of the entire Clans. To imagine such an admirable cat being subject to such embarrassment is unbearable.
And so, here's hoping that, if anything's written about what comes after The Last Hope, there's a note in it mentioning that Briarlight died peacefully in her sleep very soon after the battle with the Dark Forest. The longer she lives, the more likely it is that she'll suffer constant pain when her lower intestine begins to fail or her lower half starts to rot when she gets an infection that gets out of control when she doesn't notice it right away.
I love Briarlight. But I really do hope she dies sooner than later.