Mrwood, testimonials from people in your situation are just heartbreaking but they say more about safety than all the "rules" put together. After being in the welding trade for so close to forty years it scares me I have have seen all too much of what you describe and to a much lesser extent even suffer some effects myself from ignoring the rules. Fellows please listen to what this man is saying it might just save you a lot of pain and anguish and DON'T listen to those "old welders tales" about how to prevent or take care of a welding injury.
DRINK MILK to prevent or cure metal fumes fever from Zinc poisoning!
That has got to be the about the stupidest thing I have heard about welding safety! (well almost anyway, after reading about holding burned eyes over a hot stove I am not so sure it is
) But I guess the stove trick can just lead to blindness while the milk trick can KILL you!