Jomana Karadsheh with her husband and son. She washed after her journey before she dared touch them.

I negotiated canceled flights, an unknown carrier and a 'sleep box' to get to my son

Updated 1418 GMT (2218 HKT) May 12, 2020

We are publishing personal essays from CNN's global staff as they live and cover the story of Covid-19. Jomana Karadsheh is an international correspondent based in Istanbul.

(CNN)It had seemed sensible at the time -- having my British husband take our four-year-old son to the UK as the coronavirus pandemic started to take hold in Europe. He wanted to be close to his family and, as a former NHS and military paramedic, he wanted to volunteer to help if needed.

They left Turkey on one of the last flights out to London in March. My son, Alex, is used to me traveling so our goodbyes were relaxed and I was content, sure that if I needed to, I'd be able to just jump on a plane and catch up with them.
In the days after they left, I kept convincing myself that it would be fine, that there was no way Turkey would just stop all flights.
But it did.
My heart sank when President Recep Tayyip Erdogan announced "international flights have ended." That was the moment when all those "what ifs" and worst-case scenarios started racing through my head. What if there's an emergency? What if I cannot get to them? What if they can't get to me?
Closed shops and empty spaces at Istanbul's airport.
After a couple of weeks of separation and self-isolation, I had to get back with my family. But with shut borders and airports it seemed impossible. Until my hours on Twitter proved fruitful, with advisories from the UK and US embassies about commercial flights still operating out of Istanbul for those who wanted to leave.
Qatar Airways was up and running with a #Takingyouhome campaign. Ticket prices were significantly higher than usual but I booked my route to London via Doha.
The thought of going through airports and sitting on planes at a time like this was terrifying, so I packed my carry-on with the essentials for traveling during a global pandemic: several masks, hand sanitizer, gloves and surface wipes.