WESTBROOK – A Buxton teenager who survived a car wreck in May received his high school diploma last week after earning it from a hospital bed.

Donning a cap and gown, Nicholas Bickford, 19, and his family gathered in the office of Westbrook High School Principal Marc Gousse on July 21 for a special graduation ceremony attended by a teacher, who helped him to complete his physics lessons.

“It’s good to know that I’ll never have to go to high school again,” Bickford said Wednesday.

Bickford was hospitalized at Maine Medical Center for more than a month. A front-seat passenger, he was cut from the wreckage of a car after it careened off the River Road in Buxton and struck a tree on May 22. He sustained multiple skull and facial fractures, a punctured lung and loss of sight in one eye. He had been listed in the hospital as in critical condition.

“He’s very lucky to be alive,” his mother, Debra Bickford, an art teacher at Westbrook High School, said this week.

She said her son spent more than a week in intensive care.

Allan Bickford, the teenager’s father, said his son couldn’t talk and couldn’t open his eyes when first hospitalized.

“It’s been hell,” he said.

Tuesday, a local eye specialist referred Bickford to an ocular surgeon at Massachusetts Eye and Ear Infirmary in Boston.

Before being released from Maine Medical Center on June 25, Glenn Hutchins, the teacher in the Barbara Bush Children’s Hospital there, helped Bickford to finish up his physics lessons.

“He was good, he was engaged,” Bickford praised Hutchins.

“One of the best teachers I ever had,” Bickford said.

Bickford’s brother, Andrew Bickford, 20, also attended last week’s graduation.

After the brief ceremony and photos, Hutchins treated the new graduate to lunch anywhere he wanted. Bickford chose Harmon’s Hamburgers in Falmouth.

“He loved them,” his mother said about the burgers.

While Bickford had attended Westbrook High School, he also studied welding technology at Portland Arts and Technology High School in Portland. The newly graduated Bickford said he wants to be a welder.

Teacher Bill Presby at the Portland school last week said he had Bickford as a student for two years.

“He was one of my best welders,” said Presby, who also attended Bickford’s graduation.

Bickford wants to drive again and hopes to get a job this summer.

“Nick has always been a very determined young man,” his mother said. “He’s not the type to lay around.”

Bickford’s hobbies include ATVs and snowmobiles. “He’s goes out in the garage and tinkers with small engines,” Allan Bickford said.

Buxton Police Chief Mike Grovo said Wednesday the accident is still under investigation.

Bickford, then 18, was pinned in the wreckage for two hours, his mother said, while rescue workers extricated him from the car. Debra Bickford said her son was wearing a seat belt.

Bickford and the car’s driver, who police said was Theodore A. Mowatt III, 19, of Porter, were evacuated by helicopter from Life Flight. Two juvenile female passengers in the back seat were ejected from the car. They were also hospitalized but were treated and released.

Bickford had been a gymnast through his early school years and his parents cited his strength as instrumental in his recovery.

“I kept thinking, ‘fight, Nick,’” said his mother, reflecting on her son’s battle while in the hospital. “He’s a fighter.”

She said she wouldn’t wish the ordeal on “my worst enemy.”

Nicholas Bickford, in a special graduation ceremony, receives his diploma from Westbrook High School Principal Marc Gousse. Surviving a May car accident, Bickford studied while hospitalized to earn the diploma. Staff photo by Robert Lowell

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