And it did. Dramatically. Andersen immersed himself in charities. He now attends 30 black-tie fund-raisers a year. He is cochairman of the Young Professionals for the New Orleans Ballet. To help sell subscriptions to the city's symphony orchestra, Andersen guest-conducted Mozart's Eine kleine Nachtmusik. If he had to choose a favorite cause, he says it would be Children's Hospital.
"Morten used to visit the hospital once a week, but it got to be too hard on him," says Brian Landry, a hospital official. "He gets so involved with the children. He looks into their eyes. I can't do that. I have to focus on their ears or try to look past them."
A couple of years ago while Andersen was visiting the hospital, a desperate doctor pulled him aside and told him about a boy who seemed to be losing his will to live. Andersen rushed to intensive care and talked to the boy for 30 minutes, pleading with him not to give up. Weeks later Andersen received a thank-you note from the doctor saying the boy was well enough to go home.
During a September visit, Andersen found Devet Frye, a pretty 17-year-old girl from Dodson, La., in a hallway, immobilized on a gurney, partly paralyzed and with a crushed pelvis. Andersen rolled an empty gurney alongside, lay down and introduced himself. She could barely speak, so Andersen held her hand.
Today Frye is walking with a cane. Andersen took her to a performance of The Nutcracker in the hospital's auditorium. "You've come so far, Devet," he told her. "You must be positive. And strong. Please don't ever give up."
Ronnie Lair, 11, is racing through the halls in his wheelchair, shouting, "Morten's coming! Morten's coming!" Ronnie recently underwent a rare operation to lengthen his left leg. Andersen gave him a football that was autographed by the Saints for his birthday.
While alone in his rambling house, Andersen spends many hours thinking about his future. He is surrounded from floor to ceiling by Scandinaviana: furniture, paintings, wall hangings, pottery, clocks, dishes and silverware. He still speaks to himself in Danish, delves into Danish novels and pores over Politiken Weekly, a newspaper his parents send from home. Often he puts a C.V. J�rgensen album on the stereo and cranks up the volume. But lately Andersen has been catching himself writing his grocery lists in English and Danish. His dreams are now bilingual, too.
"I make sure to talk to my parents and brother once a week," says Andersen. "I have to keep up my Danish. Phoning is easy, a quick fix. But it's getting harder and harder to write. I have trouble formulating the semantics."
The thought of leaving the U.S. scares him. He has been "adopted" by two more families, the aforementioned oilman Tom Fetters and his wife, Jan, and Bob and Diane Winston, all from the New Orleans area. He is dating professional tennis player Anne White, who lives in Los Angeles and is best known for appearing at Wimbledon two years ago in a white bodysuit. But the prospect of losing his Danishness scares Andersen even more. "I'm asked so many times if I'll move back to Denmark when my career is over," he says. "I don't know. There are intriguing things about both countries, incredible emotional ties in each place. I hope I'll never have to choose."