‘A blessing, a miracle, an odyssey:’ Filmmaker reflects on journey after being cured of sickle cell disease

A young man suffering with sickle cell anemia waiting for a cure is now living his dreams.
Published: Sep. 12, 2023 at 8:38 PM EDT|Updated: Sep. 12, 2023 at 8:51 PM EDT
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RICHMOND, Va. (WWBT) - A filmmaker preparing to return to Richmond for the Afrikana Film Festival reflects on his miraculous life journey.

NBC12 viewers were first introduced to Nile Price a decade ago when he was a middle school student awaiting a bone marrow transplant, praying for a cure to sickle cell disease.

“Miraculous. My journey has been a remarkable, evolving blessing. An odyssey, really,” said Nile Price. “Film has helped me articulate the things that I never knew possible of seeing or being able to articulate. I feel like there’s a way for me to express myself that I never felt I had in my youth.”

Nile Price
Nile Price(NBC 12)

Price remembers a cold winter day in South Hill, Virginia, as the moment he knew he wanted to pursue film.

“We went to my grandmother’s house,” he said. “It was a cold winter. It was snowing. At the time, I was very interested in editing. There was a way shots interchanged and juxtaposed between each other and what it made you feel. [It was] something I couldn’t put into words, but I knew I wanted to be a part of it in any capacity.”

Before he could pursue filmmaking, Price spent the early days of his childhood living with sickle cell disease.

“Sickle cell disease is an inherited blood disorder that affects red blood cells. People with sickle cell disease have red blood cells that contain mostly hemoglobin S, an abnormal type of hemoglobin. Sometimes, these red blood cells become sickle-shaped (crescent-shaped) and have difficulty passing through small blood vessels. When sickle-shaped cells block small blood vessels, less blood can reach that part of the body. Tissue that does not receive a normal blood flow eventually becomes damaged. This is what causes the complications of sickle cell disease,” according to the Sickle Cell Disease Association of America Inc.

Former NBC12 anchor and reporter Diane Walker followed Price’s journey as he waited and prayed for a match for a bone marrow transplant.

Former Anchor and Reporter Diane Walker shared Nile Price's story
Former Anchor and Reporter Diane Walker shared Nile Price's story(NBC 12)

“It was a hard time, but it was a blessing at the same time. I think it was the best thing for me in a weird way,” he explained. “There were times where I had made a personal and comfortable personal peace within myself before 12, that [I] may not make it after this.”

Nile Price was cured of sickle cell disease following a bone marrow transplant.
Nile Price was cured of sickle cell disease following a bone marrow transplant.(NBC 12)

Nile was instead cured. His donor was a match many thought was impossible.

At the time, doctors said there was a 5% chance that a person of another race would have 8 out of 8 immuno-logic markers match an unrelated recipient.

Price’s donor was a white woman who lived hundreds of miles away at the time. The two have remained in touch over the years.

“[I am] 100% healthy, 100% cured,” he said. “My donor and I, Aunt Laurie, is what I call her. We talk once a month. She’s like my second mom. She’s awesome.”

Nile Price and his donor Laura Klubert.
Nile Price and his donor Laura Klubert.(NBC 12)

After being cured of sickle cell disease, Price graduated from Douglas Freeman High School and went to Norfolk State University. He was accepted to a Master of Fine Arts program at New York University. He is set to graduate in May 2024.

He is also a VMFA 2023-2024 Cy Twombly Graduate Fellow. The fellowship was created to foster the creative efforts of Virginia’s best artists and most promising art students.

On Sept. 16, Price’s short film, For the Moon, will be screened at the Afrikana Film Festival. The life of Ronald McNair, an astronaut and physicist, inspires it.

Nile Price's short film, For the Moon will be shown at the Afrikana Film Festival.
Nile Price's short film, For the Moon will be shown at the Afrikana Film Festival.(Nile Price)

“I came across this article about a nine-year-old black boy who walks into an all-white library and refused to leave without his books. In the Jim Crow South, it struck me for many reasons. One, I had never heard of it, which was astonishing and it also made me feel ashamed in a way. I grew up with educators,” Price said. “At nine years old, having this agency and this fearlessness to take a stand against segregation. This was just a couple of years after Emmett Till. I felt like that was a pivotal moment for you had the action of Emmett Till and what that did to the Black consciousness of America.”

Price’s 2022 entry into the Afrikana Film Festival is his second short film to be accepted. In 2020, the community was able to virtually watch his movie Home Again, capturing life in Richmond during social unrest and the uncertainty of the pandemic.

“I was teleported back to my bone marrow transplant days, and I just needed to get out the house. That was something I couldn’t explain to anyone,” he said. “I had this idea of just capturing life in Richmond, life in Virginia, anything around me. So I’m going out to the rocks, and I’m filming different things. I’m going to several protests and filming different things. My pop had wrote a beautiful poem that I was like, ‘Hey, can I incorporate this into this documentary that I’m making?”

As he looks forward to sharing his work with the community he was raised in, Price is thankful for the journey he has been on and looking forward to his future as a filmmaker.

“I do hope I can get to have a long time in film. Success for me is if there is a way that I can tell stories that spark of life in me and can spark a life in others with the people that I love. I think that’s more than anything that I need,” he said.