A man who was buried alive just hours after his birth 20 years ago was reunited with the Good Samaritan who saved his life.
Matthew Christian Whitaker met his savior, 58-year-old Azita Milanian, in an appearance on On Air with Ryan Seacrest on Thursday.
Milanian started to cry as she was led into the room to meet the grown-up baby she found buried in the dirt during an evening hike in Los Angeles’ San Gabriel Mountains on May 16, 1998.
The two embraced for a minute upon first meeting, before Milanian was handed a paper towel to dry her tears.
‘I was waiting for you. 20 years,’ Milanian said on meeting Whiteaker. ‘You’re exactly what I’ve imagined. I guessed your size, everything. Thank you for coming into my life, you changed my life. …I knew we were going to connect again. The day I met him he confirmed my faith … God brought us together for a purpose.’
She then told the unlikely story of how she saved Whitaker’s life, as he patiently listened.
Milanian said it was lucky that she had found the boy, since a lot of things came up that day and she ended up taking her daily hike a lot later than usual.
She also decided to run a different hiking path – shaking up her routine for the first time in eight years.
‘I was going to run 20 minutes and suddenly I felt like I was going to be sick, like someone was choking me or throwing up, and I think it was exactly 10 to 15 minutes before that they were [burying Matthew],’ Milanian recalled.
At the end of the run, as she and her three dogs were heading back to the car, she says they ran off and started sniffing off the trail.
‘I went there and heard a noise and … Tango [the dog] was standing exactly over his head and I was saying, “Come on, let’s go! What are you looking at?” And they wouldn’t move and I’m screaming at them and it was a bunch of bushes and suddenly Christian’s feet came out of the ground in front of my feet,’ she recalls.
She then ran her dogs back to the car and then returned so she could investigate further. She started digging and found the baby boy, with his umbilical cord still attached, wrapped in a blanket and buried in the dirt.
‘I didn’t even know if it was boy or a girl and he was crying and I brought him out and I dug my nails in his nose and mouth and started taking the dirt out and all I said to you was “Please don’t die. I will never leave you. I love you,”‘ an emotional Milanian said.
Milanian says she took the baby back to her car where she called 911, but she says she was put on hold before she could even say anything. She then flagged down another driver to help her, and asked him to call 911 as well.
For some reason, operators thought that the boy was already dead so it took 30 minutes until emergency crews showed up at the scene. Luckily, Whitaker was a fighter.
‘He grabbed my wrist like this and he wouldn’t let go. … He was so strong. He was so strong-willed. We are both Tauruses – stubborn,’ Milanian said. ‘Nobody can get rid of us!’
After being taken to the hospital, he was nursed back to health and eventually put up for adoption.
Milanian said she would have adopted Whitaker herself, but she didn’t know why he ended up buried, and didn’t want to put him at risk living with her, since her name had been in all the news stories about his discovery.
Whitaker says he only found out about he was put up for adoption a year ago.
‘I was in the car with my godmom and she was like, “Has anyone ever told you the true story of how you were found?” And I was like, “No” and she was like, “Legend has it …” and then she told me the story and I was just in awe and then I went home and did research and then I started telling everyone because I felt so cool that I survived the impossible,’ he said.
Whitaker is now a junior at the University of Arizona, majoring in journalism, and hopes to be an entertainment lawyer one day.
He extended an invitation to Milanian to attend his graduation next year, and hopes that they will remain close going forward.
‘Well I always want to keep in contact with her… She’ll be like my fifth mom!’ Whitaker said.
Finding Whitaker had a lasting impact on Milanian’s life, and she has continued to work with charities to help children in need. She is also the founder of Tosca, a business that makes custom outfits for ballroom dancers.