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Get the flu and you suffer for a few days. Then you get better.

But imagine living with the flu for nearly three years. Gino Olivieri has, and the former football star hopes Christmas 1990 will be his last with chronic fatigue syndrome.

The Monroe County Sheriff's Department raised about $5,800 as a Christmas present for their colleague, who has been virtually confined to his house since contracting the mysterious, energy-sapping illness in February 1988.

He hasn't driven in three years. He suffers insomnia and usually wears sunglasses to protect his eyes from normal household light. The case of Olivieri, 31, was featured in a Nov. 12 cover story in Newsweek magazine.

"It just blew us away," Janet Olivieri said of the money collected by Rochester area police units.

"It touched us deeply. Gino worked with a wonderful group of people. You can't say enough good things about them," she said.

Olivieri, a Batavia native, was a strapping 6-feet-tall, 205-pounder who starred in football at the University of Delaware, then signed as a free agent with the Detroit Lions in May 1981.

However, he spent the entire 1981 season on injured reserve with a shoulder injury that effectively ended his career.

He joined the Monroe County Sheriff's Department in 1983.

Olivieri's troubles began on the frigid night of Feb. 10, 1988, when he fell into a snow-covered pond while chasing a burglary suspect behind a local mall.

Olivieri developed hypothermia, then bronchitis. Three years later, his condition hasn't improved. He has constant nausea and fatigue.

One time, friends say, Olivieri slept for 24 hours after walking to the mailbox.

Next month, Olivieri is going to Charlotte, N.C., for treatment by Dr. Paul Cheney, the nation's leading researcher of chronic fatigue syndrome.

Olivieri will be one of about 50 patients taking part in an experiment involving a test drug called Ampligen. Designed to treat retroviral infections, it is used by some AIDS patients.

Like AIDS, chronic fatigue syndrome is thought to be triggered by a retrovirus similar to HIV or HTLV-2. Olivieri will have to stay in Charlotte three months to a year.

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