The Health Scare That Changed Everything For NCIS' Brian Dietzen

Brian Dietzen has been on "NCIS" since Season 1 of the long-running CBS police procedural. He plays the quirky. charismatic Dr. Jimmy Palmer and had a recurring role through 2012 when he joined the main cast ahead of Season 10, Entertainment Weekly reported. Dietzen has come a long way in his journey from supporting actor to a mainstay on "NCIS," a path made even more impressive when we consider he was supposed to appear in the series for one single episode.

Dietzen was never intended to be a regular on "NCIS," as he told Paul Semel in 2014. "I was a one-day guest star. But what's funny is that because it was just a one-day job, I decided to make some really bold choices when I auditioned," he said. His audacity paid off. Dietzen's onscreen chemistry with David McCallum was too powerful to pass on. "Had it been for a starring role, I would've had to test for the network, and if I had done that, I probably would've made different choices," he admitted in the interview. 

From his one-day audition to graduating into a series regular, Dietzen's creative expansion within the franchise didn't stop there. He also helped write "The Helpers," an episode released in February 2022. Dietzen was inspired to write after suffering a major health scare.

Brian Dietzen wanted to write after suffering a stroke

A few months before the COVID-19 pandemic put the whole world on hold, "NCIS" actor Brian Dietzen was undergoing a much more private health crisis. "I was on the floor of my bathroom, throwing up, and I pulled out my phone and I was like, 'Oh s***, I can't use my fingers,'" the "NCIS" star told Variety in February 2022. He was also wearing a smartwatch that allowed him to use his voice to get help. "I said, 'Hey, Siri, call Kelly,' and called my wife and I said, 'I need help,'" he recalled. Dietzen then used the voice command to call 911.

Dietzen was diagnosed with having a dual embolic stroke. "My hands were all curled up, and it was terrifying," he said. The blood clot in his brain passed, causing minimal damage. But doctors were dumbfounded by a healthy 40-something suffering a stroke, so they sent him for further testing. That's when Dietzen discovered he suffered from a heart condition. "I had this hole between my atrial chambers that needed to be closed," he said, detailing he underwent surgery to correct it.

Amid his health concerns, he took to screenwriting. In an interview, revealed that he had a writing background, saying: "I've been very, very fortunate to write a few different things. There were some feature films I co-wrote and some short films." It seems he's glad he contributed a script to the long-running procedural. "[The process] was really collaborative, it was wonderful," he told Entertainment Tonight.

Brian Dietzen has undergone surgery before

In the wake of his health scare, Brian Dietzen works to take care of his health. The "NCIS" actor likes to stay active by engaging in physical exercise, opting for P90X-inspired workouts, as he told CBS Watch in 2014. Dietzen also enjoys playing golf, an activity he became even more interested in during the pandemic, after suffering the stroke. "Golf has been a huge source of mental release during COVID," he told his Instagram fans in August 2020.

But Dietzen has suffered a few injuries along the way. In September 2016, the actor skipped an "NCIS" golf charity event after going under the knife. "I won't even be able to make it this year due to my knee healing up from surgery!" he told a Twitter fan. A few years later, Dietzen also went through another health issue. In May 2019, he had treatment on his shoulder, though details about what caused the injuries aren't clear. "Laid up after a shoulder surgery this morning," he shared on Twitter, adding he was using the downtime to catch up on his golf reading.

His injuries didn't prevent Dietzen from returning to his active lifestyle, telling CBS Watch he worked with a physical therapist to adapt exercises to strengthen his knee. "I am going to write some of my screenplay for a feature film, clean up my home office then rest and heal up," he tweeted.