"We got to something that was really rugged, simple to use, portable and that we knew would really work in harsh environments," Stachel said.
It also spread to other countries after Stachel and Aronson started a nonprofit, We Care Solar. Since 2009, the kits have been helping health care workers save lives not only in Nigeria but in facilities throughout Africa, Asia and Central America.
For Stachel, the solar suitcase is only part of a bigger mission to improve maternal health care and lower mortality rates in developing countries.
According to the World Health Organization, about 800 women die every day from preventable causes related to pregnancy and childbirth. And 99 percent of all maternal deaths occur in developing countries.
"I really want a world where women can deliver safely and with dignity, and women don't have to fear an event that we consider a joy in this country. To see birth associated with death and fear is an outrage," Stachel said. "Before I went to Africa, I knew women were dying at high rates. I just didn't know they were run-of-the-mill things we can take care of."
In 2009, We Care Solar completed the solar electric installation that her husband originally designed for the state hospital. Over the next year, the hospital reported that the death rate for women had decreased 70 percent. Nurses told Stachel they could see what they were doing, they didn't have to turn women away, and they had blood for transfusions because the electricity provided power for a blood bank refrigerator.
"When we saw the impact, that gave me the impetus to provide this fundamental thing for people to do the job they knew how to do," Stachel said.
We Care Solar provides its solar suitcase, along with training and installation, to hospitals and clinics for free. Each solar suitcase costs $1,500, which the nonprofit funds through grants and support from partner organizations and sponsors.
Stachel also works with its partners in various countries to identify clinics in need and help engage the community.
"We often ask them to be involved participating in research studies, giving us feedback and making a commitment to maintain these and to replace parts as they're needed," Stachel said.
So far, We Care Solar has provided nearly 250 solar suitcases to facilities in more than 20 countries. They're being used in main hospitals as backup systems and in rural clinics as a primary source of electricity.
"It's just shifted the morale of the health care worker," Stachel said. "They're now excited to come to work. ... Mothers are now eager to come to the clinics."
Fanny Chathyoka, a midwife at a rural clinic in landlocked Malawi in southern Africa, used to use light from her cellphone when treating patients at night. She said the solar electric kit she received from Stachel last month "keeps me going."
"This light ... is going to bring good changes," she said. "We should not lose any women. I will be able to give good deliveries. Suturing will not be a problem for me. Resuscitation of a baby during the night will not be a problem, because of the light. I feel very happy."
Ultimately, Stachel hopes her efforts will be part of a movement that makes a dent in a very big problem.
"We didn't set out to transform maternal health care around the world, but it feels like this has grown to something so much bigger than I had ever imagined," she said.
"Communities are celebrating the fact that they have light. And that they now have one more component to help with safe motherhood. It's amazing."
Want to get involved? Check out the We Care Solar website at wecaresolar.org and see how to help.