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Teen who spent 45 days in hospital gets prom makeover from TODAY’s Bobbie Thomas

Gemma has spent most of the past year dealing with symptoms of ulcerative colitis, a chronic bowel disease.
/ Source: TODAY

TODAY style editor Bobbie Thomas has helped make one teen’s prom dream a reality.

Genna, an 18-year-old from Centerville, Ohio, who endured a lengthy hospital stay with ulcerative colitis, an inflammatory bowel disease, got ready for her prom by going dress shopping with Thomas at Bloomingdale’s in New York City.

Diagnosed with ulcerative colitis in June 2021, Genna spent a total of 45 days in the hospital, missing school, and giving up her extracurricular activities, job and an internship. She had kidney stones, anemia, fatigue and broken bones. At one point, her doctors were worried her colon would rupture.

Genna had a tough decision when it came to picking a dress to wear.
Genna had a tough decision when it came to picking a dress to wear.TODAY

She credits her mother with helping her carry on.

“She was really strong for me when I couldn’t be,” Genna said.

Ulcerative colitis causes inflammation and sores in the digestive tract and symptoms usually develop over time, according to Mayo Clinic. It’s similar to Chron’s disease, except Chron’s can appear in any area of the gastrointestinal tract, whereas ulcerative colitis, which former "Beverly Hills, 90210" star Brian Austin Green recently discussed having, in the colon and rectum.

After 27 days in the hospital, Genna was allowed to return home and attended one day of school before she had to go back to the hospital a few days later.

She is not in remission yet, but Genna can attend her prom. She has made strides, thanks in part to her team of doctors at Cincinnati Children’s Hospital, while adjusting to her body’s changes, including bloating, weight gain and hair loss.

“That’s hard on your emotional self-esteem. ‘I don’t even look like who I was,’” her mother told Thomas.

Genna said it’s been tough to deal with the changes she’s undergone.

“I don’t always recognize myself. I used to be very athletic and sporty, and I’m working on getting into that, but gaining all the weight with the steroids is kind of a bummer,” Genna said.

Despite her health issues of the last year, Genna was excited to go with Thomas to secure the perfect dress.

“This is going to make prom so special,” she said after she finally settled on the dress she would wear on the big night.