Serving Larchmont Village, Hancock Park, and the Greater Wilshire neighborhoods of Los Angeles since 2011.

Bill McWhorter Shares His Story

Bill McWhorter (right) and Michael Greene in their Hancock Park garden
Bill McWhorter (right) and Michael Greene in their Hancock Park garden

Prompted by the recent airing of a CNN report on police bravery, Hancock Park resident Bill McWhorter decided it was time to tell his part of the story. We saw his post on local social media site and contacted Bill. We were thrilled when he agreed to allow us to share his story more broadly.

The natural inclination is to focus on the hero but meeting McWhorter and learning what happened that Christmas Day 2103 when he was rescued by Los Angeles police officer Donald Thompson from his burning car is even more powerful. McWhorter, who has become friends with Officer Thompson, said he was honored to place the American Red Cross medal on Thompson in 2014.

Bill McWhorter with one of his favorite plants about to bloom
Bill McWhorter with one of his favorite plants about to bloom

McWhorter is an interior designer who has designed homes and gardens for the rich and famous as well as neighbors and friends. His warm, casual style comes through in his projects. His “facade lifts” give old, dated buildings a new look and new life.

McWhorter said it took him awhile to come forward because he was trying to understand what happened that caused him to black out and crash that day. In his account on Nextdoor, posted below, once he realized the cause was the residual affect of taking Ambien the night before, he decided he needed to tell his story to prevent this from happening to someone else. He’s convinced he was saved for a reason, but he’s not quite sure exactly what he’s supposed to do.  Perhaps his life was saved to  help save other lives and continue to make the world a more beautiful place.

Below is what McWhorter posted on NextDoor:

Perhaps you viewed CNN’s special reports this last weekend about police bravery. Los Angeles police officer Donald Thompson was given the medal of valor by President Obama for pulling an unconscious driver from a burning car involved in a near-fatal accident on Christmas Day, 2013. That unconscious driver was me.

I awakened about 8:30am on Christmas Day in a happy mood because I was going to drive to Santa Monica about noon and then lunch with my friend Marilou and, afterward, drive her back to my house in Hancock Park so she could visit with my cat whom she dearly loves. I had a good breakfast, did some chores around the house and then got in my car and headed to Santa Monica on the 10 freeway. The next thing I knew, I was lying on my back, in pain, looking up at the lights in an unfamiliar hallway. All at once I was in a panic, puzzled, startled, disoriented and rather frightened. I was on a gurney at the UCLA medical center.

It was later explained to me that my car went across four lanes of traffic and collided into the concrete median divider with such force that my car caught on fire. This occurred near the Ventura Boulevard exit of the 405 freeway north! The police officer, named Donald Thompson, was coming south on the 405 and so on my accident, stopped his car, jumped over the median divider and struggled to release my seat belt and pull me out of the car and over the divider with the aid of a couple of other very brave motorists, 15 seconds before my car exploded.

This is what CNN featured on their specials, along with a brief interview with me talking about Don and his heroism and my undying gratitude to him and the other two motorists for saving my life.

What had happened to me? Why do I lose consciousness? Why was I on the 405 north when I was going to Santa Monica? My drivers license was immediately suspended, my car was gone and my insurance had just lapsed and my life started to collapse because, even after weeks of test after test, the cause of the accident could not be determined. It wasn’t a stroke or anything in my brain, as determined after a neurologist monitored my brain for a weekend. This is the part of my interview that CNN didn’t air. Finally, I went to another physician who had cared for my late partner and, after answering several questions about my sleep habits it was determined that, although I seldom have a problem getting to sleep, that night, Christmas Eve, I took an Ambien, because I was a little restless and excited because of Christmas. That’s when my doctor said, “uh, oh!”

Apparently Ambien has been responsible for hundreds of cases of unusual and bizarre behavior by people who have taken it. Some of the documented occurrences happened hours after the patient wakes up after taking the drug the night before. I had been sleep-driving, like many, many others who had taken it the previous night. Some have even committed murder, rape and injury to others and themselves.

This traumatic occurrence has had major impacts on my personal and professional lives. I’m sharing this with you so you can avoid something like this happening to you or someone you love. Thank God I’m still alive, thanks to Don Thompson, and thank God other motorists weren’t injured.

Print Friendly, PDF & Email
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard
Patricia Lombard is the publisher of the Larchmont Buzz. Patty lives with her family in Fremont Place. She has been active in neighborhood issues since moving here in 1989. Her pictorial history, "Larchmont" for Arcadia Press is available at Chevalier's Books.

Related Articles


  1. WOW! Who knew? I don’t use Ambien, but I’m going to check with others who might. Thanks for your report. So glad things turned out well for you, Bill!

    • Thanks, Molly. That drug has been responsible for hundreds of noted cases of bizarre behavior of those who have taken it. Some have occurred at night after taking it and others have happened during the day, hours after the person got out of bed, as mine did. I was lucky. I survived a potentially fatal incident. Please pass the word about this to others who you know who might be taking Ambien (Zolpidem). Bill


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here


Latest Articles

.printfriendly { padding: 0 0 60px 50px; }